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.
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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.
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 Dundee Courier 22 November 1911
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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.
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 Irish Citizen 24 August 1912
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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.
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Edith Marion Begbie was born c 1866, the daughter of John and Marion McFarlane in Leith, Scotland. By the 1881 census, the family had moved to Edinburgh. Her father worked in the wire cloth industry. In 1856 he joined a family run business which made wire related products and later branched out into paper milling. The census return records twelve children of which Edith is the eldest daughter. The second daughter Florence was also to become an active part of the suffrage movement. Between the census in 1881 and the end of 1882 Marion had two more children. The last Noel was born during Christmas time 1882, only weeks later Marion died in January 1883.
John borrowed heavily to buy other family members out of the business and, by the 1891 census, the family fortunes had significantly changed for the better. His son, Arthur, began to work in the company which was now very profitable and John, with more time on his hands, founded a liberal newspaper. By 1901 Florence, along with two of her younger sisters, is running a women’s hospital in Edinburgh. In 1888 Edith married John Begbie, an East India merchant. The couple settled in Stanmore, Middlesex and had four children, three boys and a girl. John, her husband, died in 1907.
Edith was first arrested on Black Friday. Later the charges were withdrawn. A few days later she was arrested for wilful damage at the Home Secretary’s home in Eccleston Square. Edith was sentenced to fourteen days imprisonment in the Second Division. On the 1911 census return, Ethel merely entered her name and left all the other squares blank.
Arrested in March 1912 Edith was charged with smashing windows in the Strand with something she had concealed in a muff. According to a witness, Edith systematically walked down the Strand smashing one window after another. The manager of one shop stated the damage amounted to £10, another £15. At her first appearance in court, Edith said: “I stand here as the mother of four children….that my children should have equal rights and protection, daughters and sons, and as I cannot appeal to men’s reason I must use their own language, which is violence.”. Sentenced to four months imprisonment Edith was taken to Winson Green prison in Birmingham due to a lack of space in Holloway gaol. Edith went on hunger strike alongside her sister Florence who was sentenced a few days later. Both were far from well on their release. Florence continued with her militant activities, but Edith was not arrested again although she continued to be active in the WSPU.
She died in 1932.
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A K A Behenna arrested in July 1909 is recorded as a married woman. The only other reference is to a Miss Behenna in the Suffragette dated 13 March 1914 who organised an event at the Town Hall in Tredegar, Wales.
B Beldon was arrested for her part in Black Friday. I am grateful to Jennie Kiff who got in touch to say that this is Bertha Beldon whose daughters Mary and Kathleen were also suffragettes. Bertha was born in 1863 to George, a Registrar of births and deaths, and Phoebe. When Bertha was seventeen, the family were living in Calverley, West Yorkshire where she was a pupil-teacher at the Board school. At the beginning of 1887, Bertha married Albert Beldon, a Bradford solicitor. The couple settled in the city and went on to have six children: Howard 1887; Mary 1889; Kathleen 1891; Eric 1893; Edgar and Eileen, twins born in 1901. Eileen would go on to be a well-known actress.
Bertha was an active campaigner in Yorkshire. In 1910 she joined Emmeline Pethick Lawrence on the platform in Ilkley. Only a few weeks later she was arrested in London for breaking windows at a Cabinet minister’s home. Votes for Women reported that when Bertha arrived at the police station with her fellow suffragette from Bradford, Jessie Stephenson, the latter called Bertha ‘Countess’ at which point the police released her. Neither Bertha, Mary nor Kathleen appear on the 1911 census return.
By 1912 it appears Bertha and Albert had separated, and she moved south to Hendon. There Bertha continued her suffragette activities as a member of the local WSPU. She died aged one hundred and one in 1964.
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 Suffragette 13 March 1914
 Wharfdale and Airedale Observer 7 October 1910 Votes for Women 25 November 1910
Mary Beldon was arrested in November 1911, one of two hundred and twenty- three arrested in connection with the window-smashing campaign. With two exceptions, all were tried at Bow Street Magistrates Court. One hundred and fourteen were charged with wilful damage, of the rest, some were charged with obstructing the police in the exercise of their duty, assault or damage. Most women and the few men involved defended themselves in court. A crowd of over three hundred stood outside the court while others swelled the court ranks to capacity. The prosecution opened with a general speech condemning the actions of the accused; “the disgraceful and discreditable scenes of organised disorder”. The proceedings went on over several days. Mary’s case was heard on 28 November when she was charged with obstructing the police by holding on to a horse’s bridle. Mary informed the court that she had been trying to get through the cordon and on telling the police she was not going to be moved; she was arrested. She was fined 5 shillings but was imprisoned for five days on her refusal to pay. In 1918 Mary married Alexander Donald and, they went on to have two children. The couple later divorced. Mary died in 1974.
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Annie Bell, who also used the aliases Elizabeth Bell, Hannah Bell or Hannah Booth, is the most prolific offender in the record so far. Annie was arrested numerous times in a period spanning June 1909 to the amnesty granted on the outbreak of the First World War. Annie, whose full name was Elizabeth Anne, was the youngest child of George and Elizabeth Bell. George served in the Royal Navy as an engineer.
Annie’s first arrest was in June 1909. A number of suffragettes approached the House of Commons to petition the Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, who arranged for a letter to be given the women explaining why he could not meet with them. The police attempted to move the women on, but they resisted, a number were then arrested. The Daily Telegraph described the scene at court. The supporters ‘transformed the entrance hall into a sort of camping ground, …well-dressed women were to be seen sitting in groups on the floor eating hard-boiled eggs and sandwiches… Many of the ladies who had been arrested…formed another picnic party in the station-yard. Here, surrounded by a ring of policemen, they appeared to enjoying themselves immensely.’ Emmeline Pankhurst and the Hon Mrs Haverfield were viewed as the ringleaders and fined £5 with an alternative of one month in prison. The cases against over a hundred other women were dropped.
Annie’s second arrest was in July 1909. As described in an earlier blog, Lloyd George was to give a speech in Limehouse, London. Suffragettes attempted to enter the hall where the address was to be delivered but were not permitted entry. The women were arrested and charged with obstruction. All were given a choice to be bound over to keep the peace and each refused. Mrs Baker [see earlier blog], was charged, for her part in defending Emily Davison, alongside Annie who was sentenced to fourteen days.
The government did not recognise political prisoners. The reports of the court cases concerning suffragettes often refer to the division in which they were to serve their sentence, the most frequently cited being the second division. Each division, one, two or three, came with different privileges and rights. The decision as to which division the punishment should be served was at the court’s discretion. If the offence was minor and the sentence did not include hard labour, the categorisation was either a first or second division. Sedition or seditious libel was specifically a first division sentence. Thus in effect, a classification for political prisoners was created for those whose actions were not per se criminal. Often, when being sentenced for the type of offences, many suffragettes committed an option to pay a fine rather than serve a prison sentence was offered. Frequently the women refused to pay. Non-payment of a fine was left to the courts to rule which division the convicted should be allocated.
Being sentenced to the second division meant the wearing of prison clothes, the eating of prison food, solitary confinement for all but one hour of the day, access to the prison provided books only, no contact with other prisoners and if the sentence was for a month or less no visitors. In July 1909 Marian Wallace Dunlop went on hunger strike in protest at being sentenced to the second division rather than being treated as a political prisoner and sentenced to the first division. Such sentencing was justified by the government on the basis that the offences the suffragettes were convicted of were violent and, the courts could not be seen to condone their behaviour and, in any event, the decision as to sentence was not a government one.
Marian was released after ninety- one hours without food. The Limehouse women, twelve in total and including Annie, followed her into Holloway prison. On their arrival the women stated their case not to be treated as second division prisoners, the prison governor denied their claim offering one concession the retention of their own clothes but adding the additional penalty of no exercise and no chapel visits. In addition, if they did not withdraw their claim, the women would be charged with insubordination. The women refused to accept these terms. Female prison officers tried to force some of the women into prison dress by forcibly stripping them; others were marched off to cells where they proceeded to break the windows. Some of them were then placed in punishment cells which were unlit, damp and icy cold with one tiny high up window. The wooden planked bed was only inches from the ground with a thin mattress and pillow which lay on the cold ground during the day outside the cell only being allocated at night time. Other than the floor, there was nowhere else to sit. The prison visiting committee was requested by the prison governor to consider what action should be taken against the rebellious women. As a result, Annie, amongst others, was put in ‘close confinement’ in a cell for a week. The women then refused to eat; each was released having served part of their sentence. Annie was freed on 5 August; it was decided that the women should be released in tranches: ‘they should not all be discharged in one lot. Those who are suffering ‘very markedly’ should be discharged first.’
On 18 November 1910, Annie was arrested for breaking eight panes of glass at Black Rod’s residence, at the House of Lords, valued at 14 shillings. The charges were dropped. The files contain an interesting exchange of memos between various departments including that of the First Commissioner of Works, the newly appointed Earl Beauchamp. His office issued a memo stating that prosecutions would not be pursued for damage to Government Buildings.
Annie’s next arrest was on Black Friday when all the charges were subsequently dropped by the government. A few days later she was part of a delegation to number 10 Downing Street, the home of the Prime Minister. About one hundred women surged towards Downing Street from Caxton Hall; the police caught unawares hastily sent policemen on bicycles to get reinforcements. Seconds before the women reached the bottom of Downing Street; seventy policemen took their place barricading their path. The women pushed against the police and where they broke through the cordon a woman would run towards the door of the Prime Minister’s residence only to be pushed back into the melee. The protestors had the upper hand as they outnumbered the police and managed to force their way up Downing Street but as they did so more police reinforcements arrived. The women were now outnumbered and, police pushed them back towards Parliament Square. Many including, Annie were arrested.
When Annie appeared in court, it was stated that she had smashed a window at the Home Office where two one-pound weights had been found. After her arrest, Annie was taken to the police station where she broke the windows in the Inspector’s office with a hammer she had in her pocket. Annie was then searched and, more means of breaking windows were found. The case was adjourned. Annie declared that she refused to recognise any government or obey any law until women received justice. The next day the hearing reconvened. Annie was found guilty and was fined £5 plus £4 and 10 shillings damages. Annie refused to pay and was sent to prison for one month.
By the time Annie was imprisoned some concessions had been made towards the women prisoners. Although still not categorised as first division, the women were not forced to wear prison clothes or eat prison food; during their exercise, they were allowed to converse although the remainder of the day was spent on their own. For the first two weeks, visitors were prohibited although they were permitted to receive: reading material so long as it did not relate to suffrage activities, fruit and flowers.
Annie’s next arrest was in April 1912 for breaking a window at the medical officer’s house at Aylesbury prison with a stone around which was wrapped a piece of paper “A protest against forcible feeding.” In court, Annie stated she was employed as a housekeeper at Clement’s Inn, the headquarters of the WSPU. Her actions were in protest at the condition of the suffragettes who had been imprisoned in Aylesbury prison. The inconsistent approach on sentencing between the courts, second division with or without certain privileges such as books, angered the women as their identical actions to women sentenced elsewhere received sentences without privileges. They protested. When that fell on deaf ears, they went on hunger and liquid strike. Force-feeding followed. Seventeen suffragette prisoners released early from Aylesbury. On their release, the women were all, said to be, in a weak state.
The value of the window Annie broke was stated to be 1shilling and 6 pence. As the spotlight was on Aylesbury prison, the case was well reported and well attended. At the hearing to decide if Annie should be bailed or sent to gaol on remand, several witnesses were called. The two who had apprehended Annie and handed her over to the police were keen to play up their role and implied their detention of her was a laudable act. Annie, defending herself, enquired if she had resisted; the witness retorted that she had. With that, she was remanded until the next hearing. Annie pointed out that as she stated she was guilty, why, could she not be sentenced there and then. Her protestation was ignored and, she was sent to Oxford Prison. On her return to court, Annie was clear why she had taken the action she had pointing out she had only thrown a stone at the window with the blind down so no one inside could be hurt. She was fined £5. Refusing to pay Annie was sent to Aylesbury Prison for two months. Annie on hearing this said she wished she had broken every window. Annie refused food and was force-fed. A pencil scrawl notes next to her sentence ‘eye trouble. Danger of blindness’ appears to be an opinion of her medical state following force-feeding, which was the reason given for her early release.
A report records that one hundred and two prisoners across four prisons were force-fed during 1912, twenty-four at Aylesbury. A subsequent report has the figure one hundred and two crossed out in pen and replaced, so it reads fifty-seven. Whatever the true number the total arrested and imprisoned during 1912 was two hundred and forty, and the percentage is high in either case. Eighty-four prisoners were released before they had served their full term. Some, the reports notes, was due to a pre-existing health condition which was exacerbated by refusing food. The report continues that thirty-five were released due to the consequences of force-feeding; a few agreed either to give an undertaking not to re-offend or such a promise was proffered by a relative and a couple on compassionate grounds.
In April 1913 Annie was arrested for obstructing the police outside Holloway prison while waiting for Mrs Pankhurst to be released. Annie refused to be moved on by the police shouting that if anyone tried to make her, she had a loaded revolver. When Annie was searched, it was found she had a gun and a licence. Perhaps surprisingly Annie was released on bail with a surety of £20 and an undertaking not to attend any rallies. Annie gave her occupation as Braille copyist and that she lived in Laurence Street, Chelsea. At her trial, Annie claimed the revolver was purely for protection. The prosecution stated they had doubts as to Annie’s sanity and she was remanded in custody for a week for medical reports. Brought before the court again presumably with satisfactory medical reports she was fined £5 or twenty- one days imprisonment. The magistrate remarked that it would be much better to keep to the needle and drop revolvers.
Annie was involved in July, of the same year, in a confrontation with the police over the rearrest of Annie Kenney under the Cat and Mouse Act. Annie was charged with assault and obstruction of the police. Evidence was presented to the court that Annie had struck a police officer. She was fined £2 or twenty days in prison. She declined to pay. Votes for Women, dated 1 August 1913, reports that Annie was in jail but in the same issue it records Hannah Bell, one of Annie’s aliases, was convicted at Westminster Magistrates Court of breaking windows at the Home Secretary’s home. She was fined forty shillings, twenty shillings damages or twenty- one days in prison.
It seems likely that Annie committed the second offence in July while out on licence under the Cat and Mouse Act. Indeed, her next arrest was following her release on 2 August on licence for that offence. She attempted to evade being taken back to prison by dressing as a man. Dressed in a Norfolk suit and a straw hat she was spotted by an eagle-eyed policeman entering St Pancras Station. Annie was returned to Holloway Prison.
Rereleased on 13 September Annie, on the same day, broke a window at the Home Office in protest at the prison authorities failure to return her clothes. The window was valued at £2. Annie claimed her clothes were worth £3 demanding the magistrate righted the wrong. Her protest failed. Annie was sentenced to two months hard labour, to which Annie responded that she would not do it. She was released after a week of refusing food under the Cat and Mouse Act.
Annie remained out on licence. In July 1914 she was arrested again. Annie had entered St John’s Church, Westminster, during evening service. She placed a tin with a lighted candle attached to act as a fuse in the church. She was apprehended on her way out. The tin was put in a fire bucket and extinguished. In court, Annie was clear that she had intended to blow up the church. At her first appearance in court Annie, who continuously insulted the magistrate, lay full length along the seat in the dock and asked the warder to get her up when it was over. She was remanded in prison.
A week later, Annie was brought before the court again. To the charge relating to the church was added one of attempting to blow up the Metropolitan Tabernacle on 10 May. Annie addressed the court throughout the proceedings. Blowing up a church was nothing to the destruction of a woman. The magistrate was talking drivel. She boasted that although imprisoned on many occasions, she had yet to serve a full sentence. She was taken back to prison to await trial on both charges. Several newspapers report that Annie appeared demented. The case never seems to have come to trial. In August 1914 the WSPU wrote to the Home Office asking what the position was in respect of Annie as she still remained a prisoner and while she was not a member she was imprisoned for suffragette activities.
In fact, when the amnesty was prepared, Annie was the only suffragette in prison awaiting trial. An order of no prosecution was entered towards the end of September 1914 following correspondence from Members of Parliament and Mabel Tuke of the WSPU.
No further trace of Annie has been found.
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Annie Batchelor, recorded as a married woman, was arrested in February 1908. As the London Daily News, February 12th 1908, wrote many women tried to enter the “Parliament of Men”. One attempt involved two vans on the tailgate of which sat men looking like typical delivery men. As they neared the Houses of Parliament, they jumped down opening the back doors and out tumbled suffragettes who made straight for St Stephen’s entrance. They were quickly stopped by a line of hastily assembled police. The melee continued in Parliament Square with Annie Kenney and Christabel Pankhurst directing operations from hansom cabs. Other women drove through the square using megaphones stating their protest. Annie had travelled down from Yorkshire to participate. In the reports of the court case, her occupation is given as “idle”. Charged with obstruction, she was found guilty and sentenced to six weeks in prison.The file holds correspondence concerning allocation of two of the prisoners to the Third Division. No order was made at court as to which division they should be allocated to and therefore by regulation both had to be included in the Third Division. A letter refers to a circular that had been sent in 1906, which mentioned to the class of prisoner who should be in Division Two. In the author’s view, the two prisoners of whom he was writing, which were not Annie, had ‘antecedents [which were] respectable’ and of a generally good character. The letter continues that the request to move the two prisoners was because ‘they belong to class for whom the Second Division was intended, and ought not to be sent to associate with ordinary criminals in the Third Division.’ Such description, it was felt, clearly did not apply to Annie. No further trace of Annie has been located.
Ivy Constance Beach was arrested in March 1912. Born in Southampton in 1881 it is not known who her parents were. By the age of nine, she was at boarding school in Cheltenham and, ten years later in 1901, she was an apprentice draper’s assistant living over the shop in the Isle of Wight. When she appeared before the court in 1912, Ivy was stated to be from Brighton with no occupation. Ivy was charged with malicious damage to five windows in Edgeware Road, the property of the Postmaster-General to a value of £25. Ivy was charged alongside Catherine Green, Marie Brown and Mabel North. Bail was set at £100 and, all four women elected to await trial on remand in prison.Ivy pleaded not guilty and was acquitted of the charges. Ivy died in 1931.
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Olive Beamish, full name Agnes Olive, was born in 1890 in Cork, Ireland. Her father Ferdinand who described himself as a gentleman on his marriage certificate and her mother Frances had five children: four boys followed by Olive. The family moved from Ireland to England for the boys to be educated at Clifton College. She was sent to the local girl’s school joining, the Women’s Social and Political Union at the age of sixteen. After school, she went to Girton College, Cambridge studying mathematics with economics but was like all women at the time unable to graduate.
After university, she moved to London and started working for the WSPU. All of her entries in the arrest record is under the name Phyliss Brady, the alias she always gave to the police. Olive was first arrested in April 1913 for being found with combustible material with the intention to commit a felony; a railway carriage had been damaged by an explosion and, the police believed the railway stations were to become a target. Olive and Millicent Dean with whom she was arrested, were considered to be suspects. A policeman saw them walking in Croydon at 1.45 am, each carrying a leather travelling case. When questioned as to why they were out so late they replied they were returning from their holidays. Followed by the policeman for some distance, they dropped the cases and ran. According to the newspaper reports, the retrieved cases contained tins of paraffin paper saturated with oil, candles, matches, cotton wool and firelighters. There was also a piece of paper on which had been written “Beware of how you treat Mrs Pankhurst.”
When the two women appeared in court, they requested an adjournment to prepare their defence. This was agreed to, bail being agreed at £50. Olive continued to use her false name and gave an invalid address. Olive was remanded in custody where she immediately went on hunger strike and was in due course force-fed. At her trial, she was sentenced to six weeks.
Olive continued to refuse food, and the authorities continued to respond by force-feeding. On April 25th 1913, the Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill Health) Act 1913 came into force, commonly known as the Cat and Mouse Act. This legislation allowed prisoners who were in danger of dying to be released and then taken back into prison when they had sufficiently recovered. Olive was released three days after the Act came into force, 28 April, but failed to return to prison.
Her details were circulated “late of Albany Street, Regents Park, twenty-three years, 5ft 6in, complexion swarthy, hair dark, eyes dark, medium build.” The reason for the reference to ‘late of’ is that the authorities had believed that on release the prisoner would ‘give the address to which she intended to proceed, and also of any intention to remove from that address to another.’ Not unsurprisingly Olive did not notify them when she left Albany Street.
Surveillance was mounted around King Henry’s road in Hampstead. When Olive left one of the houses on the road, she was followed to Chalk Farm tube station where she caught a bus. Olive got off at Holborn. There she was arrested taken to Cannon Row police station and from there conveyed to Holloway. Olive refused to be examined, to drink water or take food. A memo noted that Olive was ‘a dangerous woman who has probably been guilty …of arson since her release.’ In the writer’s opinion, Olive should be held ‘as long as possible whether she is committed for trial on the fresh trial or not.’ She should not be released ‘merely because she is refusing food.’ The recommendation was that force-feeding should commence on 17 January which, it was noted, had successfully been endured the last time she was in prison. When Olive was informed of the intention to force-feed her, she informed them she suffered from appendicitis. An examination proved otherwise. It was noted that Olive had ‘considerable physical strength.’ After Olive was force-fed, she protested by breaking the panes of glass in her cell.
Two days later she was charged with setting fire to a house in Englefield Green, Surrey. Olive’s response was “I am almost certain not to appear.” While at court it was noted Olive ate and drank ‘two egg sandwiches, two cups of tea and a teaspoonful of Brands Essence.’ Back in prison awaiting trial Olive refused food. Concerns were expressed and, in response, the Bishop of London paid a surprise visit to Holloway. He reported that he found Olive well “and kindly and considerately treated by the prison officials.” He was not permitted to witness the force-feeding but had been assured the only side effects were indigestion and sickness. Another prisoner he had interviewed only screamed, he wrote, as a protest at what was about to happen. His report angered the WSPU who felt it was a whitewash as he had failed to witness the force-feeding. Olive issued a statement in which she stated that she had informed the Bishop that force-feeding was very painful and she was frail. The Bishop; had assured her that her fellow prisoner only screamed through protest. When Olive put this to the prisoner, she was clear that she had told the Bishop that she screamed as a means of relieving her feelings as she knew that what was about to happen was so awful, if she did not scream she would go mad.
A doctor examined Olive noting that she was fed using an oesophageal tube as Olive could expel the nasal one. Each time she was force-fed Olive ‘violently resists.’ In the doctor’s opinion, Olive was anaemic with low blood pressure. Overall he viewed Olive’s condition as ‘fairly good’ and, there was ‘no indication that her health [was] suffering to any marked extent.’ He had been assured she had not lost any weight, but this was a visual conclusion as Olive refused to be weighed. He expressed concern that Olive’s violent resistance to being force-fed might injure her health.
An application for bail was made to the court to allow Olive to prepare her defence. Dr Flora Murray appeared to support the application informing the court that Olive was too ill to prepare her defence. She offered to undertake to have Olive living with her. The application was denied as Olive had been released before and disappeared, she had also avowed when charged not to appear again. However, a further application was successful as Olive had by then survived the balance of her first sentence. She was released on 12 February.
When the case came to court Olive, appeared wearing a long coat to which she had pinned bunches of violets. The prosecution evidence centred on suffragette literature found in the garden and the identification by a police officer at Holloway who had picked them out from thirteen women. Fifteen witnesses were called twelve of whom put the women at different places on the evening in question and, few were confident that these were, in fact, the two involved. The house had been empty for three years and, no one could say with any certainty how leaflets got into the garden. Olive’s barrister, George Rivers Blanco White, proffered no defence stating that the evidence was too flimsy on which to convict and thus Olive never spoke or gave an alibi. The judge was clear when he was speaking to the jury, after the conclusion of the evidence, that Olive had not said where she had been that night.
In less than fifteen minutes, she was found guilty with the jury recommending clemency as she had been led astray by older women. Her barrister pointed out her health was frail which the judge dismissed stating it was her own fault as she refused food. She was sentenced to eighteen months, the judge’s only clemency being not to impose hard labour as he was entitled to do.
Tests were carried out on suffragettes on their release for the presence of bromide which relaxed the body, making force-feeding easier to administer. Its presence was detected when Olive was tested. Waldorf Astor, MP for Plymouth, alarmed at these revelations asked Reginald McKenna, Home Secretary if there was any truth in these reports. Mckenna was clear no administration of bromide had taken place.
On 21 March 1914 one of Olive’s brothers, Gerald, visited her in prison, a report of which was taken by the authorities. Gerald was only granted permission to visit her as he had written stating that he wished to do so ‘with the object of persuading her to give an undertaking to abstain from militancy in the future.’ The reply made it clear that her sentence would only be remitted if she undertook to ‘abstain for the future crime or incitement.’ Gerald requested a visit after 5 pm. A note on the file suggests a time of 6 pm as Olive was force-fed at 4 pm and would be sufficiently recovered by then for a meeting.
Her brother urged her to give the undertaking pointing out to Olive their mother’s serious illness. The report states that Olive was reluctant to give the undertaking as she feared reprisals from the WSPU. At Olive’s request, her brother spoke with WSPU leaders who make it clear it was Olive’s decision to make. They were sympathetic to her position and assured her there would be no comeback if she gave the undertaking.
On the file are reports which were completed after each session of force-feeding from the day her sentence commenced on 24 February. On admission, Olive refused food, water and to be examined. The report the following notes that Olive is ‘a little anaemic’ with ‘some acne spots on her face.’ On 26 February, after only one day of no food, force-feeding commenced by nasal tube. A report dated 5 March notes that Olive ‘refuses to go to exercise. Is sullen and refuses to answer questions.’ One dated two days before her release records that to encourage her to eat ‘appetising food’ had been proffered. This failed so in the morning; Olive was fed by a nasal tube and in the evening by oesophageal tube. Each report from the start of her sentence notes that Olive was ‘very resistive’. Only on her last day when Olive knew she was going to be released did she agree to take food herself.
On March 25th 1914, Olive was released from prison having undertaken to stop her political activities. Her undertaking reads ‘On condition that the whole of the remaining portion of my sentence be remitted and I am otherwise released absolutely unconditionally, I undertake in the future not to violate the present existing Criminal law, or to incite or others to do same. In this, I make no admission as to any act in the past.’ Having served one month of her eighteen-month sentence, Olive was released. She was sent by taxi to Dr Flora Murray’s residence at Bedford Gardens, Campden Hill, London. The file contains a letter from her mother dated 27 March thanking the authorities for releasing Olive, and a file note observing that her mother’s handwriting was the same as on two anonymous letters which had been received.
In the Suffragette, she wrote that this had been a reluctant decision only made due to the state of her mother’s health. Whatever the truth of the statement at the time her mother lived until 1929. In a later letter, Olive explained it was a combination of her mother’s health and the long term effect on her own health. She needed to earn a living, and if she were too weak, she would not be able to do so. Olive was tested again for bromide, and again it was found to be present. This was also found to be the case when tests were carried out on another suffragette. Dr Flora Murray outlined in a report supported by Dr Frank Moxon the consequences of the administration of bromide or ‘any other hypnotic drug’ which could include long term mental impairment. Olive was, according to a WSPU speech, found by a doctor to be ‘weak and very anaemic. She had a rash on her face, and in reply to questions described her sensations and symptoms, which led me to form the conclusion that she had been given large doses of bromide.’ The files note that the only drug administered was, when necessary, an aperient which would have been used to relieve constipation. It was a serious allegation in particular in light of the Home Secretary’s adamant denial, but the gathering clouds of war seem to have averted the press attention.
After the First World War Olive founded a secretarial business in London joining the Clerical and Administrative Workers Union. Eventually moving to Suffolk, she became a leading member of the Sudbury and Woodbridge Labour Party. She died in 1978.
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Ellen Barnwell was arrested in September 1909 in Birmingham for taking part in the protests connected with Herbert Asquith’s, the Prime Minister visit to the city. In consequence of other disturbances Asquith was by now being accompanied by a team of bodyguards. When he arrived at Euston Station for his journey to Birmingham, he was so closely guarded that his own sister had difficulty in joining the party. Anticipating trouble, the city of Birmingham was heavily policed, and barricades were placed to prevent any protestors reaching Asquith who was to speak at Bingley Hall. Most of his journey to the venue was conducted through underground passageways and even when he was travelling by car mounted police heavily flanked him. The roads around Bingley Hall were closed and barricaded, the windows of the building padded and barred. The attendees at the meeting were escorted along a passageway lined with mounted police and in front of them another row of policemen.
To ensure that they were not barricaded out several suffragettes had taken lodgings in the road behind and in front of Bingley Hall. Two women threw stones from the lodging room breaking a window in the Hall, the police charged into the building and arrested them. Two others climbed onto a roof behind the Hall and with the help of an axe dislodged some roof tiles which they threw onto the roof and Asquith’s car. At this the police turned hoses onto them to dislodge the women. Soaked to the skin the women stayed put even though the police were now throwing stones at them. They were eventually removed by officers who climbed behind them onto the roof. Wet and in one case bleeding from a head wound the women were marched to the police station in their stockinged feet. Another pair locked themselves into a room and continuously operated a car horn until the door was broken down and the horn removed. Many of the crowd had come to support the suffragettes who repeatedly attempted to break through the barricades. Anyone who objected in the Hall was forcibly ejected. Even during Asquith’s carefully planned departure to the station Ellen and Hilda Burkett managed to throw stones at his train’s window breaking one.
The women were refused bail, the right to talk to Mrs Pethick Lawrence or Christabel Pankhurst who had arrived from London to discuss their defence, or dry clothes. Ellen was sentenced to one month in prison. On her arrival at Winson Green she immediately went on hunger strike and was force fed. Two of her fellow prisoners, Laura Ainsworth and Mrs Leigh launched actions in the courts regarding their treatment and being force-fed. This garnered considerable press coverage and many of the press cuttings are included in the official files. Clearly the authorities were concerned at the public perception of the treatment of suffragette prisoners.Various medical reports are included in the files. One dated 10 October notes that Ellen was being forcibly fed by cup ‘the compulsion required to make her drink …is of the slightest’. The following day it is noted that she ‘is regaining her strength’. On 15 October Ellen successfully refused food presented by means of a cup or teaspoon. Therefore, in the evening the nasal tube was used. Ellen, it was reported, did not resist; her hands being held by two wardresses. Ellen stated that her throat was sore the following morning, but an examination did not substantiate this and therefore the nasal tube was again used. Ellen declared that ‘she was quite well’. The following report noted that Ellen was ‘progressing favourably’.Ellen and five others complained to the prison authorities about their treatment. A meeting of the prison visiting committee was convened to hear their complaints. Ellen objected to being allotted to the Second Division, ‘treated as a common criminal’ and being force-fed. She had no complaints against the prison staff whom she said had treated her kindly. The testimony of the other five women sheds light on the treatment metered out to all of them. One described being fed by a nasal tube while ‘wrapped in blankets with hands tied down’.The day before her release Ellen was examined by two doctors who noted to be ‘in good health and free from injury’. Ellen was released on 16 October. A report notes that Ellen stated, ‘she felt quite well but not very strong’.
Ellen was born in Birmingham in 1881 to George, an electroplate worker and his wife, Sarah. In 1908 she married John Beamish Barnwell, a school attendance officer. They do not appear to have had any children and this one skirmish appears to have been the end of Ellen’s suffragette activities. She died in Birmingham in 1943.
Henrietta Barwell was part of the deputation that headed the protest which became known as Black Friday. They arrived at St Stephen’s entrance to the Houses of Parliament at about 1.30 in the afternoon where they stood for two hours corralled by the police helplessly watching as proceedings unfurled. Then Mrs Pankhurst, Mrs Garrett Anderson and Mrs Ayrton were shown into the Prime Minister’s room and were informed by his secretary that the Prime Minister would not see them. The three women were then shown back to the St Stephen’s entrance where they remained until six in the evening when the House of Commons rose.
William Barwell Browne Barwell married Elise Victorine, Countess Leiningen Westerbourg in 1873 in Budapest, Hungary. The couple had three children, Lilian born 1877, Henrietta born 1878 and Richard born 1879. By 1894 Lilian had died. Nine or ten years after the birth of Richard the marriage ran into difficulties. In her petition for divorce Elise stated that William was cruel to her. When Lilian was ill with TB contrary to doctor’s orders, he insisted on her travelling abroad where she tragically died. Following Lilian’s funeral William then blamed Elise for their daughter’s death and prevented her having any contact with either Henrietta or Richard.
When Elise was permitted to return to the marital home William instructed the servants not to take any orders from her and regularly spat at her feet in contempt. Elise discovered that William was present in Henrietta’s room when she was bathing. She locked the door to prevent him whereupon he attacked her. Elise was not given any money by William and was driven to pawn her jewellery to raise funds. William’s cruelty escalated; in one incident he wrenched her hair out with a button hook. William had several mistresses; some of whom he brought back to the marital home. The affidavit of Elise makes for sad reading. Her petition was granted with maintenance of £300 per annum being awarded. Elise had custody of Henrietta; William could see her at the weekends but only at the home of a nominated person. Unusually for the time Richard could apply to the court himself for a discussion regarding his custody arrangements.
Like many suffragettes of any class or background personal tragedy influenced Henrietta’s support of women’s suffrage and rights. Following the divorce, which was considered socially unacceptable at the time whatever the reason, Elise, Henrietta and Richard are recorded as residing in a lodging house in Paddington. For appearances Elise states she is widowed. Ten years later, Elise is living alone but although she petitioned for the divorce and William has remarried, she this time states she has been married for thirty-seven years. Like so many suffragettes Henrietta is not included in the 1911 census return.
Henrietta was arrested twice in November 1910. On the first occasion the charges were dropped. On the second occasion she was charged with breaking windows at the War Office along with two others. Although the previous charge had been dropped it was taken into account when sentence was passed. All three strenuously objected which fell on deaf ears. Henrietta was sentenced to two months in prison.
In 1920 Henrietta married Leonard Whibley, a Greek scholar and confirmed bachelor aged fifty-seven. Leonard died in 1940 and Henrietta in 1949.
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Mary Barnett, born circa 1886, was part of a deputation of women who attempted in February 1909 to present a petition to the House of Commons. The women marched from Caxton Hall to the Houses of Parliament in single file as ordered by the police. A large cordon of police awaited them outside Parliament which the women repeatedly tried to breach. The newspapers reported that a large crowd gathered to watch booing or cheering the women’s efforts. Many were arrested but, some returned to Caxton Hall disappointed that they had not been. Four returned to Parliament to have another attempt but were turned away by the police. Refusing to be bound over to keep the peace as she felt that she had done nothing wrong, Mary was sentenced to a month in prison.
Mary, whose occupation was given as companion living in Wimbledon, was imprisoned alongside Emmeline Pethick Lawrence. The official papers include correspondence concerning prisoner’s privileges with Emmeline’s husband, Frederick. One memo sheds light on the authorities’ perspective ‘These ladies avowedly wished to be arrested and have gone to prison voluntarily….it is absurd to allow them special privileges.’ A request to exercise together and converse while so doing was denied. The women, one document states, were disappointed if they did not go to prison and, they could not dictate their terms. The suffragettes had whipped up a furore by encouraging those of ‘a better social standing so that the spectacle of their imprisonment might create the greater effect.’ An issue that had to be dealt with was the treatment Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst had been accorded when they were imprisoned the previous year. The suffragettes felt that privileges given to them should be granted to all. The authorities felt that ‘the case of the Pankhursts was exceptional and easily be distinguished. They were mother and daughter and, the mother’s health had necessitated her being many weeks in hospital and so disbarred from associated labour.’ This did not address the issue that Emmeline and Christabel had been permitted to exercise and converse together, a privilege which exceeded the treatment of those in the First Division who were only permitted to communicate with fellow prisoners as a reward for good behaviour. Emmeline was also provided with a daily newspaper ‘on special medical grounds.’
Pattie Barrett, aka Martha, was arrested twice in 1907. The February arrest related to an attempt to access the House of Commons. The women marched four abreast singing “Glory Glory Hallelujah” headed by Charlotte Despard as they rounded into Parliament Square the police moved towards them some on horseback. The women scattered into small groups all with the united aim of entering Parliament. Several of the newspaper reports write that the police were far from passive in their response. Pattie was fined 10 shillings and the sentence seven days. Alongside her on the march was her sister Julia Varley who was sentenced to the same.
Pattie was born Martha Varley to Richard and Martha in 1876. Richard was an engine tenter in a worsted mill which meant he was responsible for the operation of the machine that stretched the cloth as it dried. Julia was five years older than Martha and, the two sisters had seven other siblings, five of whom survived to adulthood. Both Julia and Martha started out their working lives as worsted weavers. Their mother died during the 1890s and, by the 1901 census, Julia is staying at home to care for the family.
In June 1899 Martha married George Oliver Barrett, a wine merchant’s bookkeeper, who died only three years later in 1902. According to newspaper reports following George’s death, Julia and Martha moved in together. Whatever the truth of this by the 1911 census return on which both women are recorded Martha had returned to live with her father and Julia was living alone having moved to Selly Oak in Birmingham as a trade union organiser. The sister’s grandfather had been a Chartist campaigning for better working conditions and pay. This legacy impacted on most of the family; both of the sisters joined the WSPU. In 1911 two of their brothers worked for the Education Committee Corporation: one as a chef and the other as assistant chef providing nutritious meals for underfed children. While Martha was a registration clerk at the Labour Exchange having previously worked as a visitor to check on the welfare of poor children.
On their release from Holloway, the WSPU in Bradford intended to form a welcoming party at the station. They sent postcards to the women to inform them to get on a particular train, but unfortunately, these were never received. They returned home to be greeted by a few friends and family on an earlier train. The WSPU arranged instead for a welcome home supper the following week.
The two travelled to London towards the end of March too, again, join a protest to the Houses of Parliament. They were two of seventy-six arrested. Martha was fined 10 shillings or a month in prison.  Julia stated in court that she wanted to make it clear that she had no complaint against the police, but, she had considerable contempt for the law and the men who made it. She was sentenced identically to her sister. Julia went on to be involved in the trade union movement. Following her retirement, Julia returned to Bradford to live with Martha who died in 1956.
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Rachel Barrett was arrested in 1913. She was appointed editor of the Suffragette and was arrested during a raid on the WSPU headquarters. Sentenced to nine months imprisonment, she went on hunger strike being released under the Cat and Mouse Act. Rachel’s life is well documented at http://spartacus-educational.com/WbarrettR.htm
Janet Barrowman was arrested in March 1912. The daughter of John and Helen she was born in Glasgow in 1880, one of nine children. Her father was a lime merchant who died in 1900. She travelled to London with other Glasgow women to take part in the window breaking. Janet was sentenced to two months in prison with hard labour.
In 1912 Janet was employed as the chief clerk to David Wilkie, the manager in Scotland of Joseph Watson & Sons Ltd, a leading soap manufacturer, a position Janet had held for over eleven years. She wrote to David from Bow Street police station explaining that she had been arrested and sentenced. He immediately wrote to his solicitors, instructing them to approach the authorities in London. In a lengthy letter, David provides the background. Janet had requested a couple of days of holiday to travel to London. As a business, they had been swamped and Janet ‘had done her full share.’ David felt the break would do Janet, who was in his view ‘very sensitive and highly strung’, good.
David did not have the exact details of what had taken place. He was aware that Janet was interested in the votes for women campaign and suspected that in connection with the campaign she had ‘exercised her abilities and resources …somewhat to the same extent as she does in connection with my business.’ This, he felt, had brought Janet to the attention of the WSPU leaders who frequently visited Glasgow. In his opinion Janet would have hesitated before behaving as she had done in London if she was in her home town, ‘she has been too well looked after by people who ought to have known better.’ Within his work, David demanded that his employees kept ‘well the limits of the Law and decency’ which he felt Janet would have done ‘if left to herself.’
Janet was entitled to fourteen days annual leave which would be used in full before her sentence was served. Once her holiday entitlement had been used, David would have to notify the head office who would, he believed, order him to dismiss her. Janet was an integral part of the business who took control in his absence. Not only would the consequences by cataclysmic for Janet’s future, but they would also impact on her family, in particular her widowed mother who was ‘prostrated with shock.’ Janet’s health required ‘serious care’ as ‘her heart is affected, and she is anaemic’. David clearly regretted not questioning Janet more closely as to her reasons for travelling to London.
David’s solicitors, Wright, Johnston & Orr, wrote to Reginald McKenna, the Home Secretary, making representations and enclosing his letter. The view of the authorities was evident in an internal memo that ‘loss or damage to businesses may have some deterrent effect’ which remark entirely misses the thrust of David’s letter. The memo continues that it would be unwise to meddle with the sentence as ‘it seems so essential … to impress on the violent suffragettes that they will be held to undergo the full consequences of their acts of lawlessness.’ Another memo notes that sentences could not be apportioned according to the value of the window, but a ‘broad distinction’ was drawn between over and under £5. This, in no way, addresses the reason why the Brackenburys and Janet received such different sentences.
David then turned his attention to, in his view, the disparity in sentencing, which is very clear from the research thus far. Mrs Brackenbury and her two daughters, the widow and offspring of a General, were sentenced to fourteen days. The window Janet broke was valued at 4 shillings, and by David’s calculations, the Brackenbury’s must have broken windows valued at 1 shilling for the sentences to be comparable. While David felt these matters should be dealt with seriously, sentences should be given ‘without respect of persons’ in other words class. Others joined in questioning the severity of the sentences of not only Janet but others from Glasgow, again highlighting the Brakenburys.
Janet is credited with helping to smuggle out poetry from Holloway which was published by the Glasgow WSPU as Holloway Jingles. She, as David predicted, lost her job but successfully found an alternative.
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Elsie Bartlett, recorded as born in 1889, was charged with window breaking on 1 March 1912 and was sentenced to one month’s imprisonment. Her crime was to break a window at No 4 Grand Hotel Buildings with a hammer causing damage said to amount to £4 10s. In court, Elsie said: “I wish to say that I am very sorry that my protest had to take this particular form, but it is the only argument to which this government will listen.”
Alice Barton was arrested in November 1910 for breaking a window and was sentenced to two months imprisonment.
Mary Bartrum whose full name was Mrs Doris Mary Bartrum was part of a deputation to the House of Commons with the aim of seeing the Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith. The protest had been organised because Asquith had reneged on the Conciliation Bill which would have given property-owning women over thirty the vote. The bill passed its second reading, but Asquith declared there was no Parliamentary time for a third reading as Parliament was to be dissolved. The suffragettes were incensed. The deputation was corralled by the police and forced to stay in one place where all they could do was watch the events unfurl. For four and half hours hundreds of suffragettes struggled with the police who were on foot and on horseback. The police’s approach was to wear the women down rather than arrest them. The women were met with beatings, batoning and punches. The Daily Mirror published a few days afterwards, a picture of suffragette Ada Wright on the ground. As one eye witness reported, she was bodily lifted and thrown back into the crowd. When she reapproached a policeman struck her with all his force knocking her to the ground, as she tried to get to her feet, she was struck again. As the picture shows a man remonstrates with the police, but he was swiftly moved on. After knocking her down, again and again, she was left lying by a wall of the House of Lords.
As women marched towards the House of Parliament, their banners were snatched from them by the police while they kicked or punched the women. Some women claimed they were sexually assaulted. Only after four and half hours did the police take to arresting the women rather than trying to wear them down. One hundred and nineteen were taking to the cells. In reports included in Votes for Women, the women placed the blame at the drafting in of policemen from other areas who were not well trained or used to dealing with men.
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When Winston Churchill became aware of the photograph that the Daily Mirror had taken, he tried to suppress it, but they refused publishing it on their front page. Its publication led to an enquiry into the day’s events which Churchill refused. The day became known as Black Friday. Perhaps unsurprisingly given the outcry at the women’s treatment the Home Office decided to offer no evidence and the women were discharged. Many questioned the reasoning behind this and felt the decision had been made as an election was coming up, and it was an attempt to mollify the women. The suffragettes saw it as a victory due to the generally supportive press coverage and the clear acknowledgement, in their eyes, that the government felt that any stand against them would make them unpopular at the forthcoming election.
Doris was born in October 1882 in Kensington, London to George, a produce merchant, and Janet. The family settled in Eastbourne, East Sussex. By 1901 George had retired, and the family had moved back to London settling in Hampstead. The family were comfortably off, at sixteen, Doris was still at school, and they had a live-in housekeeper. One of three children, Doris married John Edward Bartrum on March 24th 1906. John was a mantle manufacturer for gas lamps and seller. The couple had two daughters Joanna born in 1908 and Bridget in 1914. John completed the 1911 census return where Doris is recorded as working as a commercial traveller in his business. Other than her name, her occupation, numbers of years married and number of children. No other details are recorded about Doris such as date or place of birth. This is true of the other women in the house on census night: Alice Glover single, Kate servant. Only her daughter’s and husband’s details are recorded in full. Someone presumably Doris has written in large red writing “VOTELESS Women of Household only prevented by illness from evading census, therefore have refused to give information to occupier”.
John and Doris divorced in 1918. The following year Doris married John Mackie. Doris died on December 27th, 1933.
Kate Bard was arrested twice: November 1911 and March 1912. The first offence was breaking a window in the Local Government Board offices; refusing to pay the fine she was imprisoned for five days. The only information she gave to the court was her address at the WSPU headquarters, Clement’s Inn. In March 1912 Kate was charged with maliciously damaging eleven windows valued at £110 at Gorringe's department store. Kate was sentenced to four months in prison.
Kate Bard and K Bardsley appear on the Roll of Honour of Suffragette Prisoners. However, only Kate Bard is included in the arrest records. The Suffragette Handkerchief at the Priest House, West Hoathly, signed by imprisoned suffragettes following the window breaking of March 1912, is autographed by Kathleen Bardsley. My hunch was that the two names were the same person. A search through the online collection at the Museum of London confirms that this is correct. They hold a card with a photograph of a woman with the signature Kathleen Bardsley underneath in brackets “Kate Bard”. [see above image]
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On the basis that the photograph on the postcard is Kathleen, it shows, as can be seen, a woman in her forties giving a possible birth date in the 1870s. The 1911 census return gave a hit, but it seemed very unlikely that this would be the right person as many suffragettes did not complete the form. When the image opened, it became clear instantly that this was Kathleen as written across it were the words “No Vote No Census”. The form was signed by the Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths, not a member of the Bardsley family as would typically be the case. The only information is the family’s names: Kathleen and her two children: Madge and Geoffrey. Kathleen is also said to be married although her husband is not on the return. The family are recorded as born in Oxford.
Always up for a challenge I set about trying to find the family on earlier returns or a marriage between Kathleen and an otherwise anonymous man called Bardsley. I drew a complete blank. When you click on census returns ancestry will put up other possible hits, tellingly there were none. No searches produced any hits for the births of the children or definite marriages. I started to systematically reduce the amount of information proceeding on the assumption that most not all of the information on the 1911 census return was wrong.
At last, this produced a result, Kathleen, on the census ten years previously. Given this was the very early days of the suffrage campaign when the returns were not used as a form of protest, it seemed likely more of the information was correct. Kathleen was born in Ireland in 1871, according to the return, not Oxfordshire being baptised, Kathleen Blanche.
She married Robert Jeffrey Bardsley in Calcutta which is where their first child, a son, was born in April 1897, followed by a daughter in October 1898 in Darjeeling. Their son was baptised Robert Crawford and their daughter Margaret Mary, hence Madge a common shortening of Margaret. Geoffrey followed, and it seems likely, although not certain, that he was born in England. Robert, the son, is not on the 1911 census return as he was visiting friends and appears separately. Robert, the husband, was not recorded in 1901 but in 1911 he is lodging in a house in Southport.
Robert died in 1914 in the north of England while Kathleen died in 1956 in Watford.
A Barker was arrested on in July 1909, in all likelihood having taken part in an attempt to deliver a petition to Parliament. An unmarried woman, the information is so limited no further research is possible.
Lizzie Barkley or Elizabeth Berkley was arrested in March 1907, one of the women who attempted to enter the House of Commons. Marching from Caxton Hall, they were met by over five hundred policemen who formed an impenetrable wall as women were arrested more pushed forward to replace them. The demonstration included many women from the North, including Lizzie who came from Hebden Bridge. Refusing to pay the fine Lizzie was sentenced to fourteen days imprisonment.
Lizzie, a button machinist, was born in Wadsworth, Yorkshire in 1883. One of seven children of whom five survived to adulthood of George and Ann. George, born in Durham, trained as a teacher at the Durham Training College probably with the help of a scholarship as his father was unemployed. By 1891 the family situation has changed radically. George is recorded as unemployed, his wife Ann has gone out to work and times are extremely hard as even their eleven-year-old son, Robert, is employed in an iron foundry in Halifax. In 1895 George died aged forty-three. Lizzie is recorded on the 1911 census return probably because it was her mother’s legal responsibility to complete it. Both of Lizzie’s sisters are also employed in the textile industry.
Lizzie died unmarried in 1969 in Halifax, Yorkshire.
Dorothy Barnes was arrested in March 1913. Several women attempted to deliver a petition to the King during his procession from Buckingham Palace to the Houses of Parliament for the State Opening. Arrested for obstruction Dorothy was so furious she along with a Miss Richardson broke windows at the Home Office. For this, Dorothy was sentenced to one-month imprisonment. In protest at Mrs Pankhurst’s detention at the same time, she refused food for six days but was not force-fed.
Arthur James Barnett was arrested in May 1914. Arthur worked as a solicitor’s clerk for Messrs Hatchett, Jones, Bisgood and Marshall solicitors of the City of London, a firm which had on occasion acted for suffragettes. Arthur had taken into Holloway Prison on 30 May a package for Grace Roe, the general secretary of the WSPU. The package contained apomorphine hydrochloride which would induce vomiting, thus rendering force-feeding useless. The previous day Grace had requested to meet with her legal advisor. Arthur attended the prison but following a telephone call left not to return until the afternoon. While Arthur and Grace conversed, he passed her a small parcel which was promptly seized by the prison wardress supervising the visit through a glass panel. Along with the tablets was a note advising Grace not to take more than four tablets at a time and that Arthur could be used in the same way the following day to deliver more.
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The prison authorities were already suspicious that Grace was up to something. Four days before Arthur’s visit a small parcel containing apomorphine hydrochloride had been found in the yard near where Grace had been standing. The packet had been opened, and it was believed Grace had taken some of the contents as over the next few days when she was force-fed vomiting had occurred which had not done so previously. Analysis of the tablets indicated that the second batch delivered by Arthur were more potent than those found in the prison yard and could cause the heart to slow, putting Grace’s life at risk.
The prison rules in force at Holloway at the time were that all letters brought in had to be submitted to the Governor or his deputy for perusal and ‘any objectionable matter expunged’. Arthur was charged with conveying articles into prison, and there was no suggestion that he had any knowledge of the contents. Arthur mainly dealt with civil matters and his visit to Holloway was the first time he had visited that prison and the only the second he had entered any gaol. He had been allocated responsibility for dealing with the partner, Mr Marshall, caseload during his absence on holiday. Mr Marshall was the only partner at the firm who dealt with suffragette cases, a cause to which he was sympathetic. Having received Grace’s request for a visit from her legal adviser Arthur attended Holloway, but as he filled out the necessary paperwork, he received a telephone call from the office informing him that Miss Cunningham wished to see him. Arthur resolved to return to his office to meet with her before seeing Grace as Miss Cunningham was working closely in preparing the defence with Mr Marshall.
Arthur waited at the office for several hours but rather than Miss Cunningham, another woman arrived and gave him the note for Grace. Purportedly unaware of the prison rules as to letters he put it in his pocket and returned to Holloway. Arthur’s defence was that he was unaware of the rules and had been duped the women who did know them. The firm he worked for immediately avowed never to accept any instructions from the suffragettes again. Arthur was fined the maximum, £10.
Despite the conclusion of the case the prosecution attempted to call three prison medical officers to refute an allegation made by the suffragettes in the press that the smuggled drugs were needed to counter the effects of drugs administered by the authorities to confuse them. The prosecution explained at length that this rumour could be nipped in the bud if the medical officers could attest under oath that this was not the case. The magistrate declined to permit this extraordinary demand. The papers concerning Arthur also include an exploration by the authorities of the possibility of bringing charges against Mr Marshall. This idea was dropped when the evidence was deemed circumstantial.
Arthur was born in London in 1879. When he was charged, he was a married man with two children. He served in the First World War, and his attestation papers show he was employed as a solicitor’s clerk indicating that his employers believed that he had been duped. After the war, Arthur continued to work as a solicitor’s managing clerk.