The next entry is for May Bellinghurst arrested on November 28th 1911. There is no trace of a suffragette of that name in any newspaper reports of that time. The entry should be included under the entries for Rosa May Billinghurst, newspaper reports record that she was arrested and tried on November 28th 1911 but no entry is made on the arrest record. It seems that the entry has been recorded incorrectly. Rosa May Billinghurst will be discussed in a later blog.
Blanche Bennett was arrested on March 5th 1912 for her part in the window smashing campaign. She was sentenced alongside Dora Beedham [Spong] to two months hard labour. No further information has been found.
Dorothy Bennett who gave her address as Clement’s Inn, the WSPU headquarters, was arrested on November 27th 1911. She was sentenced to seven days imprisonment.
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 the home for long periods of time. She was the fourth of seven children. In 1873 her mother had 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. Extensive searches of the census returns do not locate Sarah in the intervening years. 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 was in March 1907 was for her part in the demonstration attempting to enter the House of Commons when she was charged with obstructing the police helpfully defined by a policeman as attempting to force your way through a cordon. This Sarah had done whilst clutching a piece of paper relevant to suffrage and whilst linking arms with 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 medical examination. 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.
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. 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. The entry actually reads December 13th but as the offence number is the one used for Black Friday this seems to be an error.
In March 1912 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 1909. Presumably the comment was intended to make the judge realise she was a tough resilient woman.
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.
Sarah must have been released from prison without serving her full sentence as she was arrested on July 22nd for her part in the protests in Birmingham associated with Asquith’s visit to the city. What part Sarah took or her sentence have not been located as the newspaper records do not name the individuals involved. She was arrested again in May 1914.
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.