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 Later the charges were withdrawn.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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 Suffragette 12 December 1913
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.
 DPP 1/19