Helen Cave nee Cooke, full name Helen Cassandra, was arrested in November 1911. Born in Great Budworth, Cheshire, to Samuel, a vicar, and Nina, the family moved to Northbourne, Kent in 1870 when Helen’s father was appointed to the local church. Samuel died in 1877, leaving Nina a widow with six children: three sons and three daughters. In February 1892, Helen married Edward Cave, a widowed doctor. They settled in Bath and a daughter; Nina born in 1893.
Helen became involved with the Bath Branch of the WSPU. She is first mentioned in Votes for Women, 18 November 1910, donating to the £100,000 fund. Helen donated, to the local branch, jars of marmalade and raised further funds by selling sweets While Edward and Nina are included in the 1911 census return Helen is not; her intention to be excluded clear from a speech she gave at a gathering of the Bath Branch where Jane Brailsford also spoke (see earlier blog). Helen undertook to sell Votes for Women every Saturday in Radstock, a town close to Bath. Clearly persuasive, she extracted a promise from a local newsagent to display a suffragette poster and undertook to organise all the advertising for a WSPU jumble sale.
In June, the WSPU organised The Women’s Coronation Procession which brought together many suffrage groups. The estimated attendance was over 40,000. The procession marched, led by Charlotte Despard, from Westminster to the Albert Hall. Helen along with sisters, Grace and Atehel Tollemache and Miss Frederici distributed handbills advertising the march. The following month, Helen hosted an At Home addressed by Dr Mary Morris.
Helen was arrested, the following November, for obstruction alongside Atehel. Found guilty, she was fined five shillings or in the alternate five days in prison. Helen elected to go to prison. Mary Blathwayt, a keen supporter of the suffrage campaign, lived at Eagle House in the village of Batheaston, not far from Bath. Mary and her husband made their summerhouse available, known as the Suffragette Retreat, to women released from prison, often after hunger striking, for recuperation. Nearby, trees were planted to mark individual suffragette achievements which became known as Annie’s Arboretum, after Annie Kenney. In all around fifty trees were planted. The last was by Helen. Mary became appalled at the increasingly militant actions of the suffragettes and encouraged Helen to step back. While she continued to donate to the WSPU funds Helen took no further direct part in the campaign.
Helen died in 1925. When her husband passed away nine years later, he bequeathed £6000 to St Bartholomew’s Hospital to fund an entrance scholarship for students to be known as the Helen Cave Memorial Scholarship.
James Cassidy was arrested during May 1914. He was charged with obstruction in connection with a demonstration outside Buckingham Palace. His address was reported at Lacey Road, Putney.
No further records have been located.
If you know any more please get in touch.
Eileen Casey or Irene Casey or Eleanor Cleary, the latter two both aliases, was arrested during March 1912, March 1913, and October 1913. The fight for the vote was a family enterprise with Eileen’s mother, Isabella, also appearing on the amnesty record and her sister, Kathleen, mentioned numerous times in the suffragette press. As it becomes clear below, it is often unclear whether mother or daughter was the arrestee.
Eileen, 1881, was the eldest of four children born to Philip, a doctor, and Isabella. Philip worked as a P&O ship’s doctor before settling in Australia where the couple married. Eileen, Kathleen, and a brother Edmond were born in Australia. Another son, born in Ireland, died as a baby. By 1901 the family had returned to London settling in Kew.
The first record of Eileen’s involvement is a donation to the WSPU £100,000 and General Election Funds. She became involved with the Richmond and Kew Branch addressing meetings where the audiences were described as ‘attentive and most sympathetic’. Votes for Women notes that Eileen was Captain of the Victoria pitch where she successfully sold copies of the newspaper. Eileen’s motivation, she explained, was that she had been born in a country where women could vote and the same should be true in Britain.
The press reports that Eileen was arrested and charged with obstruction during November 1910, Black Friday, when all the charges were dropped against the numerous suffragettes detained as the Government feared extensive adverse publicity as the numerous cases wended their way through the courts. However, the amnesty record attributes the arrest to her mother, Isabella. Adding to the confusion is a statement given to Henry Brailsford and Jessie Murray, who investigated the travails of Black Friday, headed Isabella Casey.: ‘One policeman caught me by the collar of my coat and flung me on the pavement, spraining my leg. Note by Dr Murray: Mrs Casey was so knocked about that she fainted on arrival at Caxton Hall. She was lame for two weeks’.
Isabella subscribed to Votes for Women, a newspaper she had delivered by her local newsagent. Eileen’s amnesty record indicates she was arrested on 2 March 1912 and Isabella on 11 March. Isabella was charged with breaking windows valued at £5 in Oxford Street. The sentence was two months with hard labour. Eileen’s charge was breaking a window at the department store Marshall and Snelgrove valued at £140 which, it was alleged, she had done alongside Olive Walton. She was sentenced to four months in Holloway Prison. Due to the number of women prisoners they were sent to Holloway, Aylesbury, Maidstone, or Winson Green prisons. Isabella, however, does not appear on any of the lists of inmates and it is unclear what sentence she received. However, it is known that she did spend time in Holloway as she is a signatory on the embroidered handkerchief now on display at the Priest’s House Museum, Dorset.
Eileen went on hunger strike. Although, no reports have been located of her treatment or release.
Eileen was arrested again in March 1913 charged with putting a noxious fluid into a letter box in Villiers Street. A policeman approached Eileen requesting that she accompany him to the letter box. Eileen responded that she had only poured water through the opening but on examination a white liquid was found around the edge which appeared to be the same as the white opaque liquid in her possession. She was sentenced to two months.
During May 1913 seven suffragette leaders were charged with conspiracy to cause damage to property. One piece of evidence was an envelope on which was written ‘Ex-prisoners invited to Albert Hall, April 10 1913’. Inside were numerous replies accepting or declining the invitation; one was from Eileen who declined, writing ‘If you would like I should be pleased to be at the Albert Hall, but someone paid my fine and I had only one day’s imprisonment. I will join the ex-prisoners, but I hardly thought I ought to come amongst them under the circumstances’. Eileen had been released on 18 March.
Both of Eileen’s parents were involved in circumstances surrounding the arrests of Kitty Marion and Clara Giveen on suspicion of having loitered to commit a felony. A policeman had followed the two women, in the early hours of the morning, along the streets of Kew eventually asking them where they wanted to go. The women informed him they wished to go to the bridge by the gasworks- they often, kept late hours as Kitty was an artist. The two set off again; still being followed by the policeman. Kitty and Clara then asked him the way to Kew Gardens Station. They followed his directions but rather than entering the station crossed the nearby railway bridge entering 25, West Park Road, the home of Eileen’s parents. An observation was mounted, and a warrant granted. When the police entered the house, Kitty was lying fully clothed on a sofa downstairs; Clara also dressed was lying on a bed upstairs surrounded by suffragette literature. Isabella had given the two women a latch key as they had thought they might be late back. The magistrate declined to remand both women in prison as the evidence was insufficient. Granted bail; the magistrate assured them it was in order to attend Emily Davidson’s funeral as this would not breach the bail condition of no suffragette activities. A few days, later Kitty and Clara were charged with arson at Hurst Park.
Isabella was a witness at their trial. She knew Clara but had not previously met Kitty. Clara had asked if she could stay over if they missed the last train together with a friend. Given the late hour the two women might return Isabella gave Clara a key. She did not ask any details about Clara’s friend. The prosecution responded ‘What? They were going to occupy your house? They are suffragists’. Isabella replied ‘That is good enough for us. We will trust anyone who is a suffragist’. The case was sent to the Assizes. The prosecution pointed out that it was strange that Kitty and Clara had been wearing cloaks when they entered Isabella’s home, but Clara’s had not been seen since. Isabella did not recollect Clara’s outer garment.
During September 1913 Eileen and her sister, Kathleen were charged with setting fire to a letter box in Peel Square, Bradford. In 1910 Kathleen had married Charles Holtam, a bank cashier. Eileen was denied bail but, on an undertaking, to be of good behaviour Kathleen, who was seven months pregnant was freed, pending a further hearing. The evidence was that a young man called Thomas Artus had seen two women near the letter box whom he later identified as Eileen and Kathleen. One pushed something into the aperture which began to emit smoke. Later, two glass test tubes, containing phosphoric acid, wrapped in paper which was burning were found in the letter box. The matter, after an initial hearing, was referred for trial on 3 October with, this time, both sisters being granted bail. The Bradford Branch of the WSPU rallied supporters to attend the hearing. Kathleen, she stated, had been moving to Huddersfield where her husband had been transferred. Eileen had come to help. Kathleen had not seen her sister do anything nor had she been party to any wrongdoing. Eileen was found guilty and sentenced to three months with hard labour, Kathleen was acquitted. The suffragettes in court cried out ‘Shame. Votes for Women’.
Eileen was sent to Armley Goal. She sent a statement to the Suffragette detailing her time in prison. Eileen refused food and water from the day of her trial, a Friday. The following Tuesday the prison wardress realised that Eileen was not taking any water. This was the day attempts were made to take her fingerprints. She locked her fingers together. As Eileen struggled five wardresses blindfolded her, held her by the waist and grabbed her arms in an attempt to take a satisfactory print; all of this was witnessed by the prison governor, matron, and medical officer. Eileen describes herself as ‘very prostrate … unable to walk’ – two wardresses had to help her back to her bed. Her statement concludes with a long-reasoned argument about force-feeding. By the 7th Eileen was still refusing food and water; her condition was described as ‘decidedly weaker’. The following day it was noted she had lost nine pounds since admission and was now walking with ‘some difficulty’. The medical officer considered that Eileen could be force-fed without detriment. The medical report for the 9th recommends discharge as ‘nervous symptoms’ had appeared.
Eileen was released, having refused food for six days, on a nine day licence under the Cat and Mouse Act into the care of Mr and Mrs Bowers of Frizinghall. The Globe, a few weeks later, reported that Eileen had gone missing. Mrs Bowers informed the police, when they visited her home on the expiration of the licence, that Eileen had gone out and not returned. Claims were made that the police had failed to mount surveillance. Eileen purportedly left disguised ‘in a silk hat and frock coat, in imitation of a medical man’, similarly attired to the two doctors who had regularly attended since her discharge from gaol. Kathleen had now moved to Huddersfield where the police now mounted a watch and journalists jostled for information. Kathleen informed one she had not seen her sister; ‘as far as she knew, she might be in Timbuctoo’. Kathleen gave birth to a baby girl, baptised Eileen, on 19 November.
Eileen was not found until the middle of June, the following year. King George and Queen Mary were undertaking a three-day tour of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, and Yorkshire. Police were drafted in from all three counties. An officer from Bradford recognised the woman, in his lodgings, as Eileen. In consequence, she was placed under surveillance. When she was spotted examining a grandstand which had been erected for the Royal visit and then making a telephone call; she was arrested. The police also claimed to have seen Eileen in the company of a suffragette the previous evening. At the police station Eileen, who was carrying a green suitcase, was searched, and placed in the cells where she smashed the windows and refused food or water. Her suitcase was found to contain:
Four 1/4lb packets of cheddite (an explosive)
Twenty feet of fuse
Fuse matches and two other boxes of matches
A bottle of benzine
Two bundles of firelighters
Two electric flash lamps
A glass cutter, pliers, chisel, trowel, rubber shoes, scissors
A street map of Nottingham with the market place marked
A map of Derbyshire
A motorcycle road map
A map of the Home Counties
Views of Derbyshire churches including one of a church recently burnt at Breadhall
A guide to Southwell Cathedral
One newspaper dubbed Eileen ‘A Walking Arsenal’.
At her initial appearance in court, charged with loitering with intent to commit a felony, Eileen kept up ‘a constant chatter’ making it hard for the witnesses to be heard. She shouted out ‘I protest against being here, and shall not be quite’. Remanded in prison, she gripped the handrail of the dock so tightly she had to be forcibly wrenched free. The court was filled with suffragettes including Charlotte Marsh who, protesting at Eileen’s treatment, was removed kicking and screaming from the court. Initially, Eileen was committed to Bagthorpe Jail in Nottingham but was then transferred to Holloway Prison from where she was taken to appear again at court in the city where she had been charged. Suffragette support gathered but women were refused admittance. Again, Eileen kept up a continuous monologue. The police informed the court that discussions were taking place with the Attorney General to bring charges under the Explosives Act. Placed on further remand, Eileen shouted ‘No surrender, women, no surrender. They are forcibly feeding me at Holloway Prison three times a day’.
Reports on the official files record the force-feeding. Below are extracts from reports that record a process that took place twice a day:
27 June Fed Nasal tube. Very resistive. Retained all food. General condition satisfactory
30 June Very resistive. Retained all food
2 July (the day Eileen was taken to Nottingham) Fed twice by nasal tube. Retained all food
3 July Resistive. Retained all food
7 July Resistive. Fed nasal tube. Retained all food.
A week later, Eileen was again taken from Holloway Prison to court in Nottingham for a charge under the Explosives Act to be added along with wilful damage of six panes of glass in her cell. Again, Eileen chatted throughout the proceedings. This time she was sent to Winson Green in Birmingham. The admission report on 9 July notes ‘a thin anaemic looking woman with a patch of lupus (a sore) on her left cheek…Mentally calm and composed.’ Eileen was taking water but refusing food. On admission she was fed by nasal tube, a process which was repeated three times the following day: ‘She resists being prepared for the feeding but is quite passive during its progress’. Eileen weighed just under seven and half stone, six pounds less than when she was arrested. Five days after her admission the medical officer reported that force-feeding three times a day had led to a gain of three pounds. By now Eileen was not taking any water voluntarily.
Eileen tried to send to her friends some clothes; among which she had concealed a handkerchief on which she had sewn ‘health A1 feeding painless’. At the bottom of each report is a note that the information has been sent by telegram, presumably to the Home Office. As time passes the reports become more perfunctory, just noting how many times Eileen was fed. Several letters are on file from medical practitioners expressing concern at the continuation of force-feeding given her medical history of Raynaud’s disease and tuberculosis of the skin. The medical report, following receipt of the letters, notes that when questioned about how she felt, Eileen replied ‘I think I feel as well as I ever did’. This response, the medical officer noted ‘is a sufficient commentary on the attached … received last evening’. The possibility that Eileen might have said this regardless of how she felt is ignored. On 24 July Eileen was found guilty and sentenced to fifteen months with hard labour. She was taken by train back to Winson Green; out of the window Eileen shouted, ‘No surrender’. No further reports are on the files.
Eileen went to Japan as a teacher of English. In 1929 she gave a talk to the Women’s Freedom League on the life and work of women in Japan. She recounted visiting a political room in Japan adorned with photographs of Emmeline Pankhurst, Millicent Fawcett, and Charlotte Despard. Kathleen, whose husband was killed, during the First World War, settled in Lewes, Sussex close to her widowed father who died in 1928. Their brother, Edmond, also died during the war. Isabella died in 1922, Kathleen in 1971 and Eileen, a year later.
Below is a link to a blog which includes photographs of Eileen.
Sarah Jane Carwin was born on 16 August 1863 in Bolton, Lancashire. Her father was John, a carder who disentangled wool ready for spinning. John and Sarah’s mother, Jerusha, had two sons who died young. Three daughters followed: Ethelina, Mary and Sarah. In 1865 they had a son, John. The family were Methodists who worshipped at the Bridge Street Chapel. There in November 1865 John was baptised. Russia had a burgeoning textile industry which relied on the import of machinery from England and the provision of a workforce with the skills to, not only, construct and install the equipment but train the Russian workforce. It appears that John, his wife and four small children made the journey to St Petersburg; adapting to Russian life must have been very hard for the family. In 1866 Russia had an outbreak of cholera which killed ninety thousand, probably among them was Jerusha and her youngest son, John.
Another son was born in St Petersburg in 1868, John William, who was baptised at the Bridge Street Chapel in August 1871, the family residence is recorded as Russia. Three years later, Sarah’s father married Elizabeth Berry. John and his wife may have returned to Russia as their son is at boarding school at the time of the 1881 census. Seven years later Sarah’s father died.
The first time Sarah appears on a census return is 1891, by which time both of her sisters had married. Sarah joined the Wesleyan Methodist Sisterhood which in a newspaper article assured an interested women that no vows were imposed only an undertaking to give three months’ notice of any intention to quit so ‘the work may not suffer.’ The women wore a plain grey suit described as of ‘a peculiar cut’ spending their time caring for the sick, aiding the poor or teaching children. Sarah left and by the time of the 1891 census return is living with Hilda Tindall in Marylebone part of a worker’s dressmaking cooperative.
From 1893 to 1896 Sarah trained as a nurse at Great Ormand Street. The 1901 census records Sarah, living in Caterham caring for five children under three in her home for illegitimate babies. Later, Sarah worked as a nurse at the Passmore Edwards Settlement. Founded in 1897 and based at 36-37 Tavistock Square, adjacent to Great Ormand Street which is probably how Sarah became aware of their work, the settlement provided adult education, provision for children while parents worked or help with invalid children. It is, today, more widely known as the Mary Ward centre. In 1903 a visitor to the settlement wrote of a visit to the Invalid School at dinner time: ‘Nurse Carwin … kept order and moved from diner to diner, encouraging delicate appetites and looking after things from the medical point of view’. The children were collected in a ‘roomy ambulance’ under the care of Sarah. Twice a day Sarah and the driver made three journeys to Somers Town, Clerkenwell and Soho to collect and return the children.
Sarah was first arrested during February 1912 along with twenty -eight others including Emmeline Pethick Lawrence. A group had attempted to present the Prime Minister, Asquith, with a petition at the House of Commons. Sarah was charged with obstruction. In the witness box she gave a lengthy speech which garnered a round of applause from the public gathered to witness the trial. Sarah commented that ‘the duty of the police was to protect the weak against the strong, but they were now engaged in protecting the strong man, Mr Asquith, against the weak women.’ Found guilty, Sarah refused to find sureties and was sentenced to one month in Holloway Prison. In an interview for Votes for Women, Sarah commented that she ‘was roused to take militant action on hearing of Mrs Pethick Lawrence’s determination to go to the House of Commons.’
The authorities found themselves in a quandary. The women were clearly anticipating the same treatment as Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst had received before them making requests for a newspaper, visits, or exercise with each other. The request for a newspaper was declined. A letter on file accepts that the Pankhurst were granted this privilege, but it was ‘very exceptional circumstances’. It continues ‘there are not the same exceptional reasons in the present case; and having regard … to the inadvisability of allowing such very special privileges … I do not think I ought to repeat the permission’. On another page there is a handwritten note ‘It was allowed to the Pankhursts only on special medical grounds’. The Governor of Holloway wrote requesting guidance on the question of exercise as ‘it will be remembered … that the prisoners Pankhurst [were] … allowed to exercise together without any restriction as to talking’. A report considering the letter is robust ‘To accede to it or any part of it would … at the root of prison discipline and lead to endless trouble in the future…. The case of the Pankhursts was exceptional and easily be distinguished’. The writer reasons that the Pankhursts were related, and Emmeline was ill.
Sarah was released along with others on 26 March. A crowd greeted the prisoners dressed predominately in suffragette colours, seven ‘draped and decorated’ carriages and a band, who as the women stepped through the small door in the prison gates, struck up the Marseillaise. A procession formed headed by Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney followed by the band, four women representing each country of the United Kingdom, nine women riders on white horses and then the carriages. They wended their way from Holloway to High Holborn to the Inns of Court Hotel for breakfast. In the evening, the WSPU held a celebratory dinner at the same venue. Sarah informed the assembled company that while in prison she had written ‘Glorious Christabel’ on every spoon she could.
Sarah returned to the fray soon afterwards. During a demonstration, a policeman knocked Sarah to the ground. William Hutcheon came to her rescue and was himself arrested and charged with assault. Called as a defence witness Sarah testified that, perhaps, she had been knocked down by accident but either way William had assisted her by pushing the policeman away. The magistrate ruled that Sarah had contradicted William ordering him to be bound over to keep the peace.
Sarah was arrested for a second time at the end of June, again in connection with a demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament. In a report in Votes for Women, 2 July 1909, Sarah, now living in Letchworth, commented that after twenty years working with women and children she knew ‘how necessary it is that women should have the freedom to deal with social conditions’. Alongside Sarah, charged with damage to property for window smashing at the Board of Trade, were co-defendants Mary Allen, Eugenie Bouvier, and Kathleen Brown [see earlier blogs]. Sarah informed the court that ‘apparently women had no other means of getting political redress except by violence. It seemed to be the only language politicians could understand. In the past men had always had to resort to violence to gain their ends’. Sentenced to one month in prison, Sarah, whose conduct in prison was described as bad, petitioned, as a political prisoner, to be placed in the First Division and granted privileges in accordance with her status until this occurred, she would not abide by prison rules. The authorities declined her request: Sarah’s actions were ‘a political offence in the same sense that the assassination of … Lord Frederick Cavendish was a political offence – less reprehensible morally but more dangerous to society’.
When the prisoners arrived at Holloway, they collectively refused to wear prison clothes or be medically examined. Most, including Sarah, broke the windows in their cells – in part as a protest about the poor ventilation. In response the visiting magistrates convened a meeting to consider the women’s behaviour. Although only one is named specifically it appears that Sarah was among them as, on her release from prison, the press reported her time in solitary confinement – the punishment handed out by the magistrates. The women were charged with gross misconduct. As well as refusing to conform and smashing cell windows the women were disorderly, singing and shouting. A room close to Holloway Prison had been secured from where fellow suffragettes used a megaphone to communicate with the inmates. Tried separately; ‘all admitted the charges and gloried in their offences’. No one undertook to conform. In solitary for six days, Sarah refused food. She was released on 20 July. In September Emmeline Pankhurst sent to Sarah a gold badge decorated with flint; the accompanying letter read ‘This is in memory of the flinty message you sent through the Government windows on 29 June’.
Their refusal to take sustenance led to the consideration of force-feeding a process, thus far, metered out to ‘lunatics and weak-minded persons’. While it was considered that starvation and early release on health grounds actually constituted a more severe sentence than serving the full term the fear that this policy would release prisoners to offend again led to the adoption of force-feeding. Sarah was not active within the WSPU on a day-to-day basis preferring to join demonstrations and protests. Not unsurprisingly Sarah is not recorded on the 1911 census. She was next arrested for breaking a window at Black Rod’s residence valued at 1 shilling and 6 pence. She was discharged. Again, she was arrested for her part in Black Friday when the charges were dropped. Sarah gave an account of her experiences in the report prepared by Henry Brailsford and Jessie Murray. Present of the 18th and 20th of November Sarah did not receive any serious injury although her ‘arms were twisted backwards, and she was ‘crushed and banged about’. She pointed out that she had heard remarks by a policeman that ‘should only be applied to brood mares’ and had witnessed Mrs Cobden Sanderson being knocked down.
During March the following year Sarah was arrested and charged with breaking nine windows at four different premises valued in to total at £81, the press deemed her ‘one of the most successful of that night’s raiders’. In court Sarah said she ‘would like to repudiate the charge that the women were dupes in this matter. She was not the dupe of anyone. What she did was done with the firm conviction that there was need for such action’. Found guilty, she was sentenced to six months. Due to the number of prisoners some, including Sarah, were sent to Winson Green in Birmingham. One report states Sarah, refusing food, was suffering from nervous debility, weight loss and her condition was fair. Her probable date of release was 20 August but she was actually freed on June 25 when she was provided with a taxi to the station and a train ticket to Euston. Both Violet Aitken and Winifred Bray (see earlier blog) were released at the same time. Votes for Women, July 12 1912, included an article headed in bold capital letters The Roll of Honour beneath which was a quote for Reginald Mckenna, the Home Secretary: ‘It is impossible to allow any prisoner to determine the length of his own sentenced by setting him at liberty if he chooses to refuse food for a few days.’ Under his words it reads ‘This statement has been refuted by the following list of prisoners, all of whom have been released before the expiry of their sentences, in consequence of the hunger strike. It is a powerful message.
Sarah was one of five women brought before the court following a disturbance at a hearing the previous day. In the dock Sarah ‘kept up a running commentary during the evidence’. She was ordered to be bound over to keep the peace. She left the dock still protesting. This prosecution does not appear on the amnesty record.
Sarah died in Kent in 1933. Frances Unwin, an artist, was her executor and wrote a short biography of Sarah now held by the Museum of London. Diane Atkinson in Rise up Women: The Remarkable Lives of the Suffragettes writes that Sarah lived in the countryside with a friend to whom she was ‘devotedly attached’. After her friend died, Sarah lived in France and Italy before settling in Kent. Frances wrote ‘she spared herself nothing in the pursuit of her ideals … a few weeks before her death she said that if she could choose any part of her life to live over again she would choose the part she had devoted to the suffrage. It had seemed the most worthwhile’.
Josephine Carter was arrested in March 1912 for breaking windows at the government offices of woods and forests. She was sentenced to two months with hard labour. One file notes that Josephine was alternatively known as Joan Cather. While Josephine Carter appears on the Suffragette Roll of Honour Cather does not, but the British Museum has in its collection a Hunger Strike medal awarded to her. It appears this is another example of an alias being used on arrest. The inscription accompanying the medal reads ‘Presented to Joan Cather by the Women’s Political and Social Union in recognition of a gallant action, whereby through endurance to the last extremity of hunger and hardship a great principle of political justice was vindicated’.
Joan was born in 1882 in Hendon, north London. Her baptismal record notes that Joan is the daughter of Arthur, a solicitor, and Jane Joan. The couple had three children before Joan: twin boys who tragically died before they were one and a daughter, Mary born in 1879. By 1886 the family had moved to Sevenoaks in Kent where Jane died in 1886. It is unclear what happened between then and 1891 when Joan is recorded living with her paternal aunt in Brighton.
Joan married John Leonard Cather, known as Leonard, a captain in the Royal Navy in 1908, Brighton. Both Joan and Leonard participated in the suffrage campaign; the first mention in the press of involvement in the suffrage movement is a donation of £5 to the Men’s Political Union for Women’s Enfranchisement. In August 1911, both spoke at a WSPU meeting. Joan is not included in the 1911 census return. Her husband retired from the navy and running a business building metalwork for cars wrote on the form: ‘Conscientious scruples prevent me from rendering a return of the female occupants of this house for the purpose of assisting the preparation of statistical tables which will be used as the basis of further vexatious legislation affecting women, and in which they have no voice. Should the Conciliation Committee’s Bill be passed into law this session the additional details required will be forthcoming’. In pencil, the enumerator has noted that two women have been recorded by the Registrar, in the Summary Book, as ‘the probable number’.
Two years later, Joan was billed to speak alongside Mrs Aryton Gould at a WSPU meeting at the Steinway Hall in central London. While Leonard spoke at meetings alongside Georgiana Brackenbury, joined the WSPU for a rally on Streatham Common and supported their regular meetings on Wimbledon Common. Joan was appointed the Honorary Secretary of the Redhill Branch of the WSPU. The local newspaper published a letter in response to a speech made by Lord Robert Cecil in the town. A conservative on the left of the party Cecil supported women’s suffrage, as a barrister, he had defended Emmeline Pankhurst. By 1912 Cecil was an Independent Conservative Member of Parliament still pro-suffrage but opposed to militancy. Joan took issue with Cecil’s assertion that women would, if the Conciliation Bill had passed, have obtained the vote but the Government ‘torpedoed’ it as ‘some of the warmest adherents of the woman suffrage had not foolishly and deliberately killed their best chance of getting what they desired’. Joan pointed out that, during the time in question, militant suffragettes ‘had loyally kept’ a truce’ and, if, ‘the Cabinet had kept faith with women … they would not now be bewailing their reversion to militancy’. Joan concluded that they would not be another truce as the Government had tricked women twice.
Leonard spoke at a rally in Hyde Park arguing, in what was described as ‘a short, straightforward speech’, that ‘this was a man’s fight as well as a woman’s’ to which one confused bystander suggested Leonard should go home and mind his baby. Joan was from 1913, a member of the Church League for Women’s Suffrage. Early in 1913, she spoke at a meeting in Portsmouth. By June Joan is mentioned in their newspaper as the Honorary Propaganda Secretary based at 6 York Buildings, Adelphi where every Wednesday for an hour and a half she invited visitors to call to discuss the League’s work. In each issue, Joan wrote of the progress selling the newspaper requesting more volunteers to assist with selling. The women sold papers, as the Pilgrim’s March entered London, along the route. To rally some competition between the various branches Joan announced that Hampstead had topped the list, selling ninety-nine copies.
During the last week in September, the Church League was to hold a Congress in Southampton. Joan pleaded for more volunteers to sell the newspaper, ‘Will not some of those who sold for the first time [at the Pilgrim’s March] … and found it ever so much easier than they expected, come forward again and help?’ The following issue announced the provisional agenda for the Congress; Joan was to speak at a meeting alongside the Earl of Lytton, and the following day, her husband was to chair a discussion. The local newspaper described Joan’s speech as ‘a most lucid discourse’ during which she explained that it was not only a movement for the vote but a far wider one; ‘the vote was only the key to the wider emancipation of women.’ As strong feelings began to mount against the practice of force-feeding Leonard wrote a letter to the Times in response to a statement issued by Thomas Beecham, President of the Royal College of Physicians. The newspaper declined to publish. Leonard forwarded it to Votes for Women who printed it in full. Leonard wrote of force-feeding: the ‘abundant testimony [which] is available of the frequently unscientific, insanitary, and violent manner of its application’.
Joan and Leonard on occasion both spoke at meetings, for example, the Fulham and West Kensington Branch in November or the Camden Branch in April 1914. In March Joan had been re-elected to her role, and Leonard was elected a member of the executive acting as Honorary Treasurer. During the war, Joan initially worked in Home Defence or munitions. By the conclusion of the conflict, the Church League newspaper reported she was in the nursing service while her husband was on active service in the navy. Leonard was serving on HMS Goliath when it was torpedoed in the Dardanelles with the loss of five hundred and seventy men. He was one of only one hundred and eighty crew who survived. Despite the pressure, he was under Leonard found time to write to the Church League enclosing a donation: ‘good wishes for the present and future work of the League, and gratitude to those who doing my share of in my absence’.
After the war, the couple settled in Bexhill on Sea. Joan became the secretary of the Hastings Branch of the Women’s Protestant Union writing to the local paper encouraging support for the 1929 International Peace Week. Leonard returned to his role of treasurer of the Church League which in 1917 had become the League of the Church Militant which called for equal treatment of men and women together with the settlement of international questions based on right, not might. At the end of the war, the League changed its aims to campaign for the right of women to become priests. Ten years later, it was wound up leaving, the campaigning for equality in the priesthood to other groups. In 1923 Leonard chaired a series of lectures on Theosophy. He also became involved in the National Council for Animals’ Welfare. By 1931 he had been elected the Honorary Organising Secretary. By 1953 Leonard was President. On the outbreak of World War II Leonard had retired but served as an ARP warden and treasurer of the Club for Blind Evacuees.
Leonard died in 1964 and Joan three years later. Leonard’s niece, Pamela, married the actor, Desmond Llewelyn, famous for playing M in the James Bond films.
George Dobson Carter was born, 1891, in the market town of Garstang which sits equidistance between Preston and Lancaster. His parents were George, a labourer, and Anne who had ten children, seven of whom were alive at the time of the 1911 census. By the time of the 1901 census the family had moved to the small town of Darwen, close to Blackburn. His father was working as a carter on the highways and as a cooper. While his elder sisters worked as winders and weavers in the cotton industry, an elder brother, James, was an architect who went into partnership with Robert Walker and his son, Frank trading as Walker, Carter and Walker.
George attended, as a boarder, Hutton School. During July 1913, a suffragette demonstration in Trafalgar Square culminated in another attempt to present a petition to the Prime Minister. Sylvia Pankhurst led the deputation and the ensuing melee led to the arrest of thirteen women and eleven men, one of whom was George. Charged with obstruction, George appeared before the magistrates at Bow Street court. Found guilty, he was fined twenty shillings or one month imprisonment.
From there the trail goes cold. If anyone has any more information, please get in touch.