AN ARRESTING INSIGHT
The National Archives have digitized the records of the arrests of suffragettes: Amnesty 1914 The Index of Names of Persons Arrested 1906-1914. Following the outbreak of World War 1 most suffragette movements indicated their intent to suspend militant tactics for the duration of the war. The Government extended an amnesty and collated a list of all the persons to whom it was granted. Each record gives the name, the date and place of arrest of the first arrest, subsequent arrests are recorded underneath. This fascinating record which includes the names of men also arrested for suffrage misdemeanors is available on Ancestry.
As the record only states the name the ability to put the individual in context in terms of background, education or employment is limited. This blog is an attempt to ascertain the facts in respect of the individuals: what were they arrested for, were they imprisoned, force fed and where possible any background information. If anyone has any additional information I would love to hear from them.
The first name is Alfred Abbey arrested on March 1 1911, a member of the Men’s Association for the Promotion of Women’s Suffrage, alongside Henry Garrett. During a Cabinet Meeting at Downing Street several suffragette’s appeared acting as a decoy to distract the police from the actions of Alfred and Henry. Located on Horse Guard’s Parade they were trying to get over the wall into the Downing Street garden with the purpose, they stated, of delivering a letter regarding women’s suffrage. They were charged at Bow Street with disorderly conduct. The prosecution stated that if the men were “heartily ashamed” of their actions they could be bound over to keep the peace for three months. Henry accepted but Alfred refused stating he had been forced into take such an unusual step to get his letter delivered as all other attempts to be heard had failed. He was imprisoned for 21 days in the Second Division.
The previous year force feeding had been stopped for suffragettes but continued in respect of other prisoners who refused food whose crime involved moral turpitude. Not classed as a suffragette due to his gender when Alfred went on hunger strike he was force fed. Questions were asked in the House of Commons of Winston Churchill. He stated that moral turpitude included amongst other things serious violence which had occurred in this instance. Given that the other defendant had been bound over this interpretation of events was far from honest.
Angered by Churchill’s answers Hugh Franklin, another campaigner who detested Churchill, wrapped a letter and a feeding tube around a stone hurling it at Churchill’s windows. Imprisoned in Pentonville Prison he was also force fed. The Votes for Women dated March 17th 1911 carried the headline “Man Prisoner Force Fed.” For a short time he was headline news but what happened to him thereafter is not known.
Dorothy Abraham was arrested on March 4th 1912. The daughter of Alfred Clay Abraham a prominent chemist in Liverpool and Lucy Ellison Clay herself an activist for women’s right to vote she was educated at boarding school and went on to study at Liverpool University and King’s College, London. An early member of the WSPU, whose early meetings her mother hosted in her drawing room, Dorothy was active in both London and Liverpool. In March 1912 the WSPU ceased giving prior warning to the authorities of their intended actions and launched a surprise attack. Over hundred women were given hammers and directed to designated sites, they reputedly hid the hammers in their muffs. At 5.45pm they started to smash windows in Oxford Street, Regent Street and other well known addresses. Amongst the shops targeted were Liberty’s Marshall & Snelgrove and Burberry and Harrods where Dorothy was arrested. Sent to Holloway Prison she was released due to insufficient evidence to secure a conviction.
When war broke out Dorothy and her mother joined the Home Service Corp which succeeded the Liverpool WSPU. This was a group formed to enable women to put themselves forward for war work. Dorothy became involved in agriculture and ultimately owned her own farm where she married and raised four children.
Lilyarde Acherling was arrested on November 22nd 1911 and December 12th 1911. There are no records under this name but research indicates from a report in The Citizen dated December 12th 1911 that her name was Lelgarde Acheling aged 26 an actress. Perhaps unsurprisingly given her profession this name also appears to be pseudonym or stage name. On November 22nd 1911 over two hundred women were arrested for breaking windows. Her second offence in December was when she was charged alongside Frances Rowe and Violet Jones with damaging plate glass windows at the National Bank. The damage amounting to £50. The report does not record if the three women were imprisoned but this seems likely as women tried on the same day for a similar offence were.
Christine Adams was arrested on June 8th 1914, a surveillance photograph of her can be seen at http://collections.museumoflondon.org.uk. She was charged with riotous behaviour at the Brompton Oratory where a group of women interrupted the service by chanting about Mrs Pankhurst. The priest escorted two of the women out and on his return Christine was standing in front of the pulpit screaming, her hat having been ripped off by the some of the congregation. She was fined £5 which she refused to pay and was therefore imprisoned for one month.
Martha Adams was arrested for the same episode of window breaking in March 1912 as Dorothy Abraham. Several including Mrs Pankhurst were found guilty and imprisoned at the first hearing but Martha’s offence was referred to a higher court as the damage exceeded £5. The outcome is unknown.
Kate Adamson was arrested on March 4th 1912 having taken part in the same window breaking as Dorothy Adams and Martha Adams. She was sentenced to fourteen days imprisonment.
Violet Ethel Addis was arrested on February 12th 1908. A member of the WSPU she was part of an attack on the House of Commons. The women split into two groups: some were concealed in a van which pulled up outside St Stephen’s Hall and the other group marched from Westminster Hall where the Women’s Parliament had been sitting to present a resolution of the meeting demanding the vote. Both groups failed in their attempt to enter the House of Commons and about fifty women were arrested. Violet was recorded as being thirty one years old, married and from Birmingham and appears to have gone to prison. Despite the age, location and full name it has not been possible to locate Violet any further in the records.
Audrey Aimler was arrested on March 12th 1912, again part of the window smashing protest. Either the name is misreported or she gave a false name as no trace can be found.
If anyone has any further information comment it would be much appreciated.
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