This is the seventh blog on the women behind the suffragette arrest record. Instead of just names, some of whom are well known and documented, most of the women with a surname beginning with A and their stories are coming alive. Even the small sample so far belies the myth that they were on the whole London centric and middle class.
This group of women includes Annie Evelyn Armstrong one of the youngest suffragettes to be arrested whose arrest along with another young girl brought about a change in the WSPU rules regarding militant action. Louise Archibold, housewife and mother of two based in London and Lillian Armitage socialist supporter from childhood married to a union leader from Bradford, women poles apart but united in a cause.
Louise Archibold was arrested on March 12th 1912 and March 19th 1912. Louise appears on the Roll of Honour of Suffragette Prisoners 1905-1914 with the surname spelt Archibald as opposed to Archibold as recorded on the arrest record. She is recorded as being married. Using either spelling there is only one marriage that fits the criteria that of William Henry Archibold to Louise Victoria Adams on August 14th 1889 in Kentish Town, north London. The remainder of this entry has been written on the basis that the correct person has hopefully been identified.
On her marriage certificate her father is named as Joseph Adams, gentleman but no record of her birth or entries on the census return can be located so beyond this there is no background information. One clue is that the 1891 census return records William and Louise being visited by her sister Eva whose birth place is recorded as France. The family are living in Richmond and William’s occupation is publisher. On July 16th 1890 Louise gave birth to their first child, Norah Enid. Ten years later the family are living in Holloway and Louise has given birth to a son, Andrew, born exactly one year later on Norah’s first birthday.
The 1911 census records the family living in Twickenham, Middlesex. Interestingly neither mother nor daughter are recorded which indicates that they both possibly participated in the suffrage protest against the 1911 census return. Louise was arrested for window breaking and was sentenced to four months imprisonment.
The family continued to live in Twickenham on her release. Predeceased by her husband Louise died on March 4th 1951.
Helen Armes was arrested on May 22nd and May 26th 1914. Her case was sent to the Old Bailey for trial along with that of three other suffragettes. The charge was one of conspiracy to damage property. The police raided a flat in Maida Vale, London and found a list of public libraries together with bags of stones and tools. The start of the trial was delayed after an outburst from two of the women who flung a book towards the judge and chucked anything else that came to hand around the court. Mary Richardson was called as a witness for the defence but she quickly turned giving evidence into an opportunity to state that her mouth had been cut during force feeding. She was then removed. Helen and one other were cleared of the charges the other two who had been the ones shouting at the outset were sentenced to three months imprisonment. Sadly it has not been possible to identify Helen any further with certainty.
Lillian Armitage was arrested on February 14th 1907. She was part of the cohort who attempted to enter the House of Commons. At her trial she was found guilty and ordered to pay twenty shillings or serve fourteen days in prison. Her name is on the Role of Honour of Suffragette Prisoners.
Lillian was born in Leeds in 1885. As a child she attended the Leeds Socialist Sunday school and as an adult became a teacher in the Bradford Socialist Sunday school. In 1906 she married Matthew Armitage, a trade unionist and gas meter inspector. This was Matthew’s second marriage and a much younger Lillian became step mother to four children. When Lilian was arrested was she was the Secretary of the WSPU in Bradford and Matthew was President of the Gasworker’s Union. The Leeds Mercury dated February 15th 1907 includes an interview with Matthew following Lillian’s arrest and imprisonment. Asked how he would manage “So I shall be a fornight by myself, except for the four children. But I shall be able to manage very well. I am very handy in a house myself, ..”
Lilian fell pregnant not long after her release and gave birth to a son Stitt Wilson in December 1907. Several more children followed. Lilian remained invovled in the suffrage movement. Matthew died in 1947.
Bessie Armstrong was arrested on December 14th 1906. She was part of a group of women and men who attempted to enter the House of Commons. When they were brought to court several leading figures in the suffrage movement attended including Christobel Pankhurst and Charlotte Despard. Five women and one man were charged with disorderly conduct and causing an obstruction. Each was fined fourteen shillings or fourteen days imprisonment. None of them were released until after Christmas and they were denied visitors. On their release they were greeted by members of the WSPU and they returned to Clifford Inn for breakfast all announcing they would gladly return to prison in the cause of women’s suffrage.
Bessie is recorded in the newspaper reports as being married and there is no trace of someone married, of that name in Manchester.
Evelyn Armstrong was arrested on March 21st 1907. Her name is given in the press as Annie Evelyn Armstrong of Blackpool. One report going so far as to describe her as “buxom”. At the time of her trial she was stated to be seventeen years old. After her case Mrs Pankhurst introduced a rule that no one under twenty one years old should undertake any activity which could potentially lead to a prison sentence. Many Lancashire mill girls had come south to join a protest outside the House of Commons and it is often stated that Annie Evelyn was part of this contingent. It is true that there was another young girl involved from the Lancashire mills but it does not appear Annie Evelyn was part of them.
The only Annie Evelyn Armstrong recorded was born in March 1890 in Reading which would make her seventeen at the time of her arrest. She was the daughter of James and Mary Jane Armstrong who by the 1891 census had moved to Salford, Lancashire. Both her parents and elder brother James were born in Ireland whilst her elder sister was born in Kent so clearly the family had a peripatetic existence. At her trial the judge expressed his hope that her parents were there to support her and in view of her age remanded her for one week. When she was brought before the court again the magistrate stated that the court would pay her expenses home if she were to agree. Annie Evelyn accepted the terms and was taken by a mission woman to be reunited with her sister.
When Annie Evelyn returned home it was to the news that her father had died. Interviewed her mother was clear that she did not support the cause holding suffrage meetings responsible for turning her daughter’s head. If she chose to return to London it would be without her consent. Annie Evelyn emigrated to America in February 1911.