The police arrested Edwy Godwin Clayton in May 1913 and charged him with conspiracy alongside Annie Kenney, Harriet Kerr, Agnes Lake, Rachel Barrett, Laura Lennox and Beatrice Sanders. Before the trial started, George Lansbury, Johnston Forbes Robertson, Henry Nevinson, H J Gillespie and Henry Harben signed a letter published in the newspaper, Votes for Women, asking readers to donate to the costs of Edwy’s defence as he had ‘no private means out of which to pay for an adequate defence.’
Their trial opened at the Old Bailey the day after Emily Davison had died at Epsom Races. Despite the trauma of the trial, Edwy and his co-defendants attended. Fifty women dressed in white, the clergy and Sylvia Pankhurst, Ben Tillett, Frank Smith and Edwy preceded the hearse, which was covered in flowers. Behind the hearse were Edwy’s co-defendants.
At the trial, the police produced a document found at Annie Kenney’s flat in Mecklenburg Square purportedly in Edwy’s handwriting outlining a scheme to smash fire alarms or attack Government buildings, timber yards or cotton mills. They presented a document written by Edwy suggesting that the proportions, presumably of chemicals, were not yet correct but this would shortly be resolved and would be ready in a few days. Annie asked the inspector who presented the evidence if he knew for sure the document was hers. The inspector admitted he did not know. Another witness, whose tea hut in Kew had been damaged by fire, alleged that one of the other defendants had informed them that the only way was to attack Government property. All the defendants were found guilty. Edwy was sentenced to twenty-one months in the third division. Each was ordered to pay one-seventh of the costs, an unusual step in a criminal case.
While on trial Edwy had sold the furniture at the family home to Ethel Purdie, the first woman to qualify as an accountant. Her firm was the auditor to the Women’s Freedom League. The Director of Public Prosecutions took Ethel to court alleging that the sale had taken place to prevent Edwy having his furniture seized to meet the court costs. The Director of Public Prosecutions did not serve a writ on Edwy as they could not locate him. A letter was produced in which Ethel offered to buy the goods. The prosecution stated: ‘that this sudden offer required explanation.’ In addition, there was no sign of a cheque made payable to Edwy. The defence argued Ethel, who had been told of the furniture for sale by Dr Jessie Murray, was not a militant suffragette and the sale had taken place in the ordinary way of business. Ethel Purdie issued a bearer cheque, in effect cash, and sent a further sum to Clara. Ethel had paid less than Edwy had originally asked. The prosecution asserted that even this was too much as the goods, less seven kept pictures, had fetched even less at auction. Ethel pointed out that this was probably because of the presence of a plain-clothes police officer and a Treasury official at the auction. The pictures had been held back not because they were to be returned to Edwy but because Ethel had been advised it was not the right time to sell. The judge held that ‘the sale was genuine’.
They released Edwy on 23 June 1913 under the Cat and Mouse Act after he went on hunger strike. He then disappeared. A little over a year later Votes for Women published a letter sent from Edwy with a foreign postmark. He wrote: ‘I neither received nor desired to receive, payment for any help given by me to the women’s movement. My sole reward has been the happiness derived from personal participation, as a volunteer helper, in this campaign against prejudice, ignorance, disease and brutality.’ Soon after the advent of the First World War Edwy was ‘pardoned’ under the amnesty agreement.
Edwy was born in 1858 in Lambeth, south London, the son of Alfred, an architect and Elinor. Edwy’s grandfather was also an architect who worked on the building of the Corn Exchange in London from 1827. His son Alfred and Edwy’s father designed the railway station at Tynan in County Armagh and another at Glaslough, again in Ireland. Initially the family lived in Lambeth but by 1871 they have moved to Islington. The 1881 census return stated that Edwy, who appears to have been an only child, was a qualified chemist and teacher of chemistry. Edwy and Clara Tilbury had the banns for their marriage read on three consecutive Sundays in their parish church, St Mary’s in Islington during the same month as the census was taken. A newspaper announcement connected Edwy to two naval ancestors; this militaristic connection was to prove in later years poignant.
During the 1880s, many advertisements appeared in the newspapers for a variety of products citing the tests they had been subject to. For example: the Western Times, 28 December 1883, included an advertisement for the Well Park Brewery. Their ale had been submitted for testing by ‘the great Analyst’, Arthur Hassell, and found to be ‘bright, clear, and sparkling, and possessed the true hop flavour’. Hassell and Edwin Godwin Clayton, Edwin signed the advertisement perhaps sounding more professional than Edwy. Arthur Hassell was a well-regarded physician and chemist who wrote The Microscopic Anatomy of the Human Body in Health and Disease. Published in 1846 it was the first text of its kind. Hassell researched water quality and the adulteration of food which led to the Food Adulteration Act 1860. Ill-health led him to spend most of his time abroad. Hassell described Edwy in his autobiography, The Narrative of a Busy Life: An Autobiography, as a ‘dear friend’, describing research the two had undertaken together.
Edwy continued to advertise using Hassell’s name for several years after his death. Edwy appears to have been trading as The Analytical Sanitary Institute based in Holborn Viaduct until around 1906. Three years later, Edwy published a work entitled ‘A compendium of food-microscopy with sections on drugs, water, and tobacco’.
Edwy and Clara first lived in Southwark. The family was completed with the arrival of Hilda Faith, known by her middle name, in 1883, who joined Cuthbert Edwy Ansell born the year before. By the 1891 census the family had moved to Richmond, living at 3 Bath Terrace. Edwy was working as an analytical chemist, thus his work with Arthur Hassell. Around this time, Edwy joined the volunteer rifle corps rising to second lieutenant. Faith attended the Richmond School of Art where she won a prize in 1901. She went on to win several more prizes over the years at a variety of competitions.
The suffrage campaign was a family affair. Clara was appointed secretary of the Richmond Branch of the WSPU in 1909 by Votes for Women. Their home, Glengariff, Richmond Road becoming a hive of activity. Faith advertised art lessons in the suffragette newspaper to be delivered at the family home. During the summer of 1909 Faith and two other women distributed pamphlets in Chesham, Buckinghamshire announcing a meeting of the WSPU. Faith chaired the gathering which explained the ideals of the campaign manfully carrying on despite torrential rain which fell as the meeting opened. As the weather cleared Miss Jacobs delivered her speech. The following month, Faith presided at a meeting in High Wycombe, narrowly avoiding injury when the box she was standing on gave way.
After an Autumn and early winter of meetings the January 1910 General Election saw Faith and her mother, Clara, campaigning in the Fulham constituency where the WSPU band paraded to draw attention to the cause. Emmeline Pethick Lawrence and Christabel Pankhurst addressed the voters. On polling day, a wagon and car decorated in WSPU colours toured the constituency as over forty women, including Faith and Clara, to rally support. The result, a defeat for the Liberal candidate and success for the Conservative, was hailed by the Votes for Women newspaper as ‘magnificent.’
Edwy joined the Men’s Political Union for Women’s Enfranchisement alongside his membership of The Men’s League for Women Suffrage. In 1910, the National Union of Women Suffrage Societies nominated Edwy as their candidate in the forthcoming election for South Salford in opposition to the Liberal Hilaire Belloc. A seat, he lost. By 1912 Faith had joined the Church League for Women’s Suffrage becoming the organiser for Richmond and Kew.
For a brief period in 1900, Cuthbert worked as a clerk on the Great Western Railway. Cuthbert was then employed as a pupil assistant in 1903 to number and label books for the Royal Society of Medicine; a job he held for two years. From there he was appointed the librarian at the Manchester Medical Society at whose heart was the library. Cuthbert appears to have been involved in the founding of the UK British Medical Library. He is the only one of the family to be recorded in the 1911 census; living in Manchester employed as the Chief Librarian of the Scientific Society. Five years later, Cuthbert appeared before a tribunal as a conscientious objector. He had converted to Catholicism and was currently working as a social worker having moved south from Manchester. By this time Edwy was living in Hampstead.
Following the tribunal, Cuthbert went to work for the Quaker Friends War Victims Relief Committee. Initially, he undertook farm work but then he was posted to Holland and later Poland and Belgium providing ‘medical care, education and economic support to vulnerable people and communities.’ Cuthbert continued with this work until 1921. The same year he gave a lecture in Sunderland about his eighteen months working in Poland and the conditions there and in central Europe. It was an insight Cuthbert provided on several further occasions. He then travelled to Russia, an experience he also spoke about, in part to raise awareness and also to raise funds. Cuthbert was at pains to point out that he could confirm relief did go to the intended recipients. At one talk alone Cuthbert raised over £16. One newspaper reported that Cuthbert spoke harrowingly of ‘the famine area and of the unhappy refugees flying from hunger and walking hundreds of miles in search of food.’ Over the next two years, Cuthbert continued to raise funds and awareness.
Later in life, Cuthbert worked as a travel lecturer and organiser. He died in 1966, Faith having predeceased him by six years. Sadly, Faith became incapacitated and spent many years in Claymore Mental Asylum in Ilford, Essex.
Edwy died in 1936.
Florence Clarkson was born on Christmas Eve 1882 to Alfred, a bookbinder and Sarah. Florence’s birthplace was Leeds, but by the 1891 census, the family had moved to Strong Street in Broughton, a suburb of Salford. She was one of seven children. Ten years later, the family moved to Alfred Street. Florence became a costume maker, the same as her sister, Lillie.
She was first arrested in July 1908 and charged along with twenty-six others with obstruction. A deputation had, supported by a large crowd, made its way from Caxton Hall to the Houses of Parliament. Found guilty, Florence was bound over to keep the peace with a surety of £20 – a failure to agree would lead to one month in goal. Refusing to pay, Florence was sent to Holloway prison.
A large crowd, brass band, numerous police officers and a bouquet of flowers greeted Florence and the fourteen others upon their release on 31 July. The women were conveyed to Queen’s Hall for a breakfast provided by the WSPU. Florence returned north, continuing her activities with the Manchester WSPU. One of her fellow members was Mabel Capper, whose campaigning brother William Florence went on to marry in 1919.
Florence, occasionally, wrote the branch reports for publication in Votes for Women. During August, Florence, alongside Letitia Fairfield, held an open-air meeting. When the lorry, from which the two women were to address the crowd, failed to materialise, they commandeered a ladder from which Letitia addressed the throng. Over the following months, Florence continued to campaign. Towards the end of November, Florence recounted her experiences at the protest held in Scarborough, when the member of Parliament, Sir Edward Grey, visited the town.5
During May the following year Florence and her future sister-in-law, Mabel, were two women honoured at the Albert Hall with the presentation of a memento badge to mark their time in prison.6 A few weeks later, Winston Churchill was to address a meeting. Florence told the press that she and a companion hid themselves in a small recess between a door and a partition inside the venue. Despite several searches of the building to ensure there was no one hiding, Florence and her companion managed to stay hidden, surviving on chocolate, for nine hours – springing out to heckle the gathering.
Two months later, Florence, along with her future sister-in-law, Mabel, and several other women stood outside the Co-operative Hall in Leigh where Lewis Harcourt, a Liberal Cabinet minister, was due to address a meeting. A policeman stood in front of the closed entrance door. The women attempted to rush past him and Florence was arrested. The policeman attested in court that Florence was the only one arrested because she had assaulted him, knocking off his hat twice, pushing a book into his face and hitting him five or six times. Florence denied hitting him, but the Chief Constable and another officer corroborated his evidence. Florence argued that if there had been an offence, ‘it was a political’ one. She was fined 20 shillings or 14 days in prison in the second division. Votes for Women reported that the others had not been arrested as the crowd had surrounded them and that after Florence was taken away a riot ensued.
Florence was sent to Strangeways prison. Each evening a group of women gathered outside the gates to sing the Marseilles and hold a protest meeting. The prison authorities attempted to outwit any potential reception by releasing Florence early, but the organisers expected this and arrived ahead of the planned schedule. During the reception at the Grotto Cafe, Florence recounted her refusal to wear prison clothing and to eat for sixty-five hours. Taken to see a stomach pump, Florence ‘dreading such an outrage’ elected to take infirmary food but continued to protest by not wearing a prison number or undertaking any work. This garnered her ‘a good supply of books and an armchair.’
Florence swiftly returned to the campaign. Richard Haldane, Secretary of State for War, travelled to Liverpool to address a meeting. As he spoke, there was a sound of breaking glass – bricks and slates were being thrown from the roof of an adjacent empty house. The police forced entry to discover six women passing missiles to a seventh on the roof. They arrested all of them including Florence and Bertha Brewster (see earlier blog). They charged Florence with wilful damage. Bailed on the Saturday, the funds being paid by a supporter; the women refused to accept the terms and were sent to Walton Goal. The court granted bail again when they appeared on Monday. At the subsequent trial, the judge found Florence guilty and sentenced her to two months in prison.
While at court, the women told their friends that they had refused food while on remand in Walton Gaol. Witnesses reported that two of the women fainted while awaiting their case to begin. The police transported the women back to prison in a black maria. During the journey, they made the phrase Votes for Women visible by forcing a sunshade through the vehicle’s ventilator and unfurling it. Their lack of food did not diminish their power to protest as they broke prison windows; refused to wear prison clothes or undertake any work.15
Rona Robinson, one of the seven women, gave an account to Votes for Women of their time at Walton Gaol. The women refused to cooperate the moment they entered prison. One member of the prison staff told them they were ‘rotten in the middle.’ They placed those culpable in punishment cells described by Rona as ‘a cold, bare cell with its fixed board and tree stump for a seat.’ Rona writes of the women keeping their spirits up by singing the Marseilles and other songs. The prison guards stripped the women and forced them into prison garb. Steadfastly, they all refused food. Rona calculated that by the time of their release, the women had fasted for 123 hours.
Florence stated that after four days without food she awoke ‘with a feeling of suffocation, as if the walls and ceiling were pressing in upon her.’ Later that day, they took her to the prison hospital. The governor asked her ‘Was the game worth the candle?’; the doctor asked: ‘Was it worth the sacrifice of health and life?’ Florence answered both in the affirmative: ‘My conscience told me that sooner or later justice and truth were bound to win.’ The matron enquired as to the thoughts of Florence’s parents on her behaviour to which she responded ‘My parents know that right will prevail’ and while anxious as to her health ‘they never try to dissuade me from the path I will follow to the end.’16
Their refusal to eat led to the commissioning of a report into force-feeding, which is discussed in the blog for Bertha Brewster. All seven were awarded medals by the WSPU inscribed For Valour – hunger strike.17 Warrants were issued over a month after their release from prison for the damage caused to the prison. Florence’s was for damage to two panes of glass. Mary Leigh was spared an arrest warrant since she was already in prison, while the authorities issued arrest warrants for the other women. It was not until 10 December that the police arrested and brought that Florence before the court in Liverpool.20
The authorities refused bail and took her to prison despite a report on her medical state. The WSPU had asked Dr Helen Clark, a campaigner for women’s rights, to examine Florence because of the warrant for her arrest. The examination occurred early in December. Helen certified Florence is ‘in a very enfeebled general condition. In addition, there was extreme swelling and congestion of the back of the throat and tonsils. The voice was husky and at times failed entirely.’ Helen ordered bed rest; orders, which she believed Florence had ignored.
On 13 December Florence was sentenced to 14 days for damage valued at sixpence. The sentence was to be served in the third division. Protests broke out in court. The same day Florence’s mother wrote to the Home Secretary enclosing for his consideration a certificate ‘showing the state of her health.’ She described the offence as ‘trivial.’ The certificate stated Florence ‘is a sufferer from chronic tonsillitis and debility.’ Two days later, 15 December, Mary Gawthorpe, a committee member of the WSPU, wrote to the Home Secretary conveying a resolution passed at a meeting: ‘That this meeting expresses its profound indignation at the vindictive sentence passed on Miss Florence Clarkson in Liverpool yesterday, and in the interests of humanity and justice calls upon to the Home Secretary to order Miss Clarkson’s immediate release.’
The medical officer sent a telegram to the Home Office advising that in his opinion ‘Clarkson is not fit for the medical treatment usual in such cases. She is also weak and anaemic. Please now recommend.’ This prompted the prison governor to release Florence. Friends took to a nursing home in Liverpool. The medical officer included a more detailed report on Florence’s health in the files. He describes her as ‘a weak woman’ whom, the medical officer had been reliably been informed, took some three weeks to recover after her period of starvation in August. Now, on examination, ‘her heart is not robust, though free from disease.’ On the same day, Florence’s mother wrote to the Home Secretary, she also wrote to the prison medical officer enclosing the same report. The report from Dr Helen Gordon was also sent to the authorities.
It appears from the files that the amount of publicity the arrests of the women garnered caused concern at the Home Office. The Home Office proposed in a letter in May that any extant warrants should not be acted upon. The Home Office appointed doctors to ensure, in the future, external advisers did not exert undue influence.
By mid-January Florence returned to campaigning. Two months later she was presented with a bar to add to her medal in a ceremony in the Albert Hall.23 Little more is known of Florence’s activities after 1911.
Mabel Capper’s brother, William, a journalist, served in the First World War. It was reported in May 1918 that William, a journalist who served in the First World War, had been gassed and was in a hospital in France. A year later, he and Florence married. By 1939, the couple were living in Watford, where Florence sat as a magistrate. Both were ARP wardens during the Second World War. Florence died in 1955, William three years later in 1958.
The police arrested Helen Clarke in April 1913; the charge was causing an obstruction. Helen and Olive Clapson were selling suffrage newspapers at Oxford Street, a place where Helen had stood before. On this occasion, a man stood opposite, holding a placard which read ‘Anti-suffragettes: women do not want the vote.’ Either Helen or Olive held one which read ‘Gamble in Human Life.’ In consequence, a crowd gathered to watch. The police moved all three on, but shortly after, Helen and Olive Clapson returned and the police arrested them. In court, Helen commented that until this point, the police had been very kind when she had occupied the same spot selling newspapers. She was fined 10 shillings and 6 pence.
When Helen appeared in court, she gave her age as thirty-five. Other than that, no further information has been located.