The next entry is Georgina Fanny Cheffins who was born in 1864 in St John’s Wood, London. Georgina was the daughter of Charles, a civil engineer, and Mary. The family lived at 72 Boundary Road. Georgina was their eldest child, followed by three sons and two daughters. When the 1881 census was taken the family had moved to live in Dulwich. During the following ten years, the family moved to an area of Gillingham in Kent known as the Grange. The reason for the move was that Charles had entered into a partnership to manufacture Portland cement at a new plant to be built in Gillingham. Mary, their mother, passed away just before the census was taken in 1891. The family continued to live there, although, the cement business was acquired by another company in 1893, until Charles’s death in 1902. Georgina’s younger brother, George, died in 1898.
The 1901 census records Georgina and Eva Lewis living in Lower Gornal, just to the west of the town of Dudley in the West Midlands. The two were running the St James’s Mission which appears to be affiliated with the parish church. They described themselves as lay sisters. Evangeline (Eva) was born in Brockville, Canada. Her father ultimately was appointed Archbishop of Ontario. He made frequent trips to England to raise funds for his work and for the sake of his health. One daughter married Llewelyn Loyd, who owned the Lillesden estate in Kent, and another lived in Cheltenham. Following Eva’s mother’s death and her father’s remarriage, it may be that the sisterly ties brought Eva to England.
Both Georgina and Eva successfully evaded the 1911 census. Georgina was arrested in March 1912 for breaking eleven windows at Gorringe’s department store valued at £110. I
In court, Georgina explained that she was ‘a suffragist absolutely by conviction’ because after living and working among the poor for more than twenty years she had come to the conclusion that all efforts were absolutely futile without the benefit of the franchise.’ Her militancy was the way of the WSPU and she was ‘firmly convinced’ it was the only way. Georgina closed by saying ‘her protest [was] because of the sweated women and the women and children ruined and broken every day of the year.’ She was sentenced to four months in prison.
Georgina and Eva had, by then, moved to Hythe in Kent and joined the town’s WSPU branch. At a meeting, held while Georgina was in prison attended by Eva, the Hythe branch resolved to form a club, The Suffrage Club, which would bring together, for discussions, both the WSPU and the New Constitutional Society for Suffrage with aim of all suffrage campaigners being welcome. It would commence as soon as Georgina, who was appointed treasurer, was released from prison. Muriel de la Warr, accompanied by her daughter, Idina, officially opened the club, located on Hythe High Street with a shop and a room at the rear for meetings of The Suffrage Club, in August 1912. The window ‘was hung with purple, white and green’ with a counter and tables draped in the same colours.
Georgina went on hunger strike, while in prison, and was forcibly fed. She was, on release, awarded the hunger strike medal. While in prison, Georgina was one of the signatories whose name was embroidered on the Suffragette Handkerchief now held by the Priest House in West Hoathly.
Kate Perry Frye, a suffrage campaigner, wrote a diary, published by Francis Boutle Publishers and edited by Elizabeth Crawford, which mentions both Georgina and Eva and the support they gave to the campaign.
In 1916 Georgina successfully passed a First Aid exam held by the St John’s Ambulance in connection with the war effort. At some point, the two women moved from Seabrook Road to a smaller bungalow called Hymora where they lived until Eva died in 1928.
Georgina died in 1932.
Evelyn Cheshire or Taylor
Evelyn Cheshire, an alias for Evelyn Taylor who will be discussed in a later blog.
The Mysterious Ada Chatterton
The next entry is Ada Chatterton who was one of eleven women arrested in December 1906, the amnesty record erroneously records the month as November. Five suffragettes managed to enter unhindered the Central Hall of the Houses of Parliament. Ejected by the police, other women joined them in Old Palace Yard. The police attempted to navigate the women towards Parliament Street. One by one they resisted the women were arrested including Jennie Baines (see earlier blog). The charges against Ada were behaving in a disorderly manner and resisting arrest.
Ada, wearing a blouse with buttons inscribed with Votes for Women, and Jennie was the first in the dock. The police were at pains to point out they had tried patiently to move the women along and had no desire to see them sent to prison, if fines were not paid, over the Christmas period. Ada was fined twenty shillings or fourteen days in prison. Ada refused to pay the fine. From prison, she sent the message conveyed by Edith Howe Martyn and Christabel Pankhurst who were allowed to visit the prisoners: ‘I have gone to prison to help to get better conditions for working women and to get equal pay for equal work for schoolteachers. I shall continue to fight till such reforms are carried.’ After her visit to Holloway, Prison Edith gave an interview to the press; the women were being treated as Division I prisoners allowed ‘books, newspapers and sewing materials’ but were not permitted to converse and were in solitary cells.
Some of the women were released just after Christmas. They recounted being fed brown bread, a sample of which was produced for the reporter who described it as ‘a queer, bricklike thing’, three potatoes and an unidentifiable soup for lunch on Christmas Day. One observed that she had never been to chapel so much in her life having been required to attend twice a day. Another commented on the incongruity of receiving Christmas cards from a women’s mission with messages written in red ink such as ‘Keep from strong drink’ or You have been Satan’s captive, dear sister.’ Ada, it was believed, was in the sanitorium. Ada was released on 31 December.
Ada gave an interview to the Manchester Evening News. Like others, she complained that the journey from court to prison was ‘horrible’ with seventeen prisoners, men and women, cooped up with little ventilation. Ada spent her first night in a cell, but a bad cough led to the medical officer admitting her to the sanitorium. Recounting the ‘milk, beef tea, custard, fish and bread and butter’ she was fed, her fellow inmates exclaimed ‘What luxuries.’ Ada was moved back to an ordinary cell but complained about the noise from the nearby padded one so was relocated into a room with non-suffragette prisoners whose company she enjoyed.
Early in February, the following year, a group of suffragettes attended a Liberal meeting at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester where Winston Churchill was to speak. The Manchester Courier described the treatment of Adela Pankhurst, Mary Gawthorpe and Ada as ‘brutal.’ The venue had been filled with what the newspaper described as ‘Liberal chuckers-out’ to deal with any interruptions. The suffragettes in the audience listened attentively to Churchill’s speech before rising to ask questions. Several men interrupted but were allowed to remain. When Emmeline Pankhurst rose to ask her question, several stewards attempted to eject her but desisted when Churchill agreed to respond. He then invited Mary onto the platform but as arms stretched out to help her up, the stewards tugged her down. She fell back into the crowd and ‘was badly knocked about.’ Adela asked a question but when she attempted a second the stewards dragged her out pushing her down a flight of stairs. The reporter noted that Mary’s face ‘bore evidence of the treatment she had received.’ Ada who attempted to ask Churchill to complete answering Emmeline’s question ‘was struck … under the chin with [a fist.’ She was pushed from the hall protesting at the treatment Mary was receiving: ‘You shall not do this without my protest.’ As Ada spoke, a man scooped her up, carried her down the stairs and threw her into the gutter.
A week later Ada was arrested in London for her part in the demonstration which accompany an attempt to present a petition to the Prime Minister. Ada refused to stand in the dock as she was tired. The magistrate permitted her to sit. From her chair, Ada kept up a loud chatter during the evidence forcing the magistrate to delay her case. When she was requested to vacate the dock, Ada replied ‘Don’t touch me. I am not so tired as to be unable to get up when I think I will in my own time.’ This drew laughter from the onlookers and supporters in the gallery. The policeman carried Ada from the court as she called out ‘Oh, this is lovely!’ Later, when Ada returned to the dock, she pleaded not guilty. She was fined forty shillings or one month imprisonment in the first division. A witty reporter headed his article ‘Chattering Mrs Chatterton;’ another observed that Ada neither by name or nature ‘appears to endorse the opinion of Sophocles that ‘women are adorned by silence.
Ada was released from Holloway Prison on 27 February. The reason for her early release is not known. The WSPU placed a brass band outside the gates of the prison which played for an hour before the women were released. Accompanied by songs such as Men of Harlech and As we go marching home, the women made their way to Holborn for a celebratory breakfast.
On 21 March Ada was arrested, one of seventy-six, for a third time, again in connection with an attempt to enter the House of Commons. Ada made a complaint against the police alleging that a policeman had deliberately tripped a woman up as they were marching towards Parliament Square. Ada was sentenced to one month in prison without the option of a fine. Florence Macaulay, WSPU, who visited the women in prison reported that Ada ‘is quite cheerful and unrepentant.’
The following November there was a by-election in the Kingston upon Hull West constituency caused by the resignation of the Liberal Member of Parliament who had succeeded to his father’s title. Ada joined the suffragette campaign during the election.
Ada joined other members of the WSPU at a series of meetings. Seconding a resolution Ada observed that in her view ‘some compelling power had caused magistrates to be severe in their sentences on the women who are at present in gaol.’ Several suffragettes including Ada organised a meeting in Albert Square, Manchester, despite a ban such gatherings. The police arrived as Ada began to speak. After a brief scuffle, one of their number, Mrs Robinson, was arrested. Ada was, by now, the literature secretary of the Manchester Branch of the WSPU, encouraging women to sell Votes for Women as she would ‘much rather send cash to headquarters every week rather than returns.’ As the summer wore on the WSPU organised a demonstration as part of the specific Manchester campaign in Heaton Park. A preliminary demonstration was held in the same location and the branch was thrilled at the attendance of around ten thousand. Two platforms were erected, one of which Ada spoke from. It was concluded that ‘the feelings of the meetings were a substantial guarantee to the interest which will be displayed’ at the forthcoming demonstration. Again, Ada was to speak.
When Christabel Pankhurst wrote a history of the suffrage movement to date published in Votes for Women Ada was described as ‘a Manchester working woman.’ There is no mention of Ada either in the national, local or suffrage newspapers after 1908. The official files give the year of birth as 1857 which the majority of the newspapers also record. This would make Ada roughly fifty years old which potentially ties up with the newspaper picture above. One newspaper reports that Ada lived in Portland Street, Manchester but no trace has been found. All the records and newspaper reports note that Ada was married but again, this does not assist.
If anyone can help, please do get in touch.
Florence Chapman and Starch
Florence Chapman or Charman is the next entry in the amnesty record. She was arrested during May 1914. As the dawn of the First World War drew nearer detailed reports of the suffragette trials became less of a regular feature in the press; Florence’s trial is an example. Nor do the official records provide sufficient detail to trace her any further.
Whether or not this is the correct Florence the following tale of family angst arising from suffrage activities deserves inclusion. Alfred Nicholls of Harborne in Birmingham appeared before the magistrates in connection with a request for the issue of a summons for the arrest of Florence, his sister-in-law, on assault charges. Alfred testified that his wife, Melinda, had been unwell and in a weak moment he had invited Florence to their home to care for her sister while she was indisposed. Florence was a militant suffragette and her influence on his wife and daughter was so strong they had become estranged from him, refusing to cook his meals. Alfred repeatedly asked Florence to leave to no avail.
Alfred was not having his laundry done for him either. Deciding that a clean shirt and collar were a necessity he took matters into his own hands setting to mix the starch he needed. Florence burst into the kitchen, finding Alfred busy at his laundry, she launched into a tirade and hit him with a walking stick leaving him with three or four cuts on his head and face. Terrified Alfred locked himself in his bedroom. Florence said that she could not leave Melinda as she was consumptive. The magistrates adjourned the hearing for a week. It would be resumed if Florence did not leave.
What happened next is unclear. However, the sisters remained close. In 1939 they are recorded living together in Coventry. There is no sign of Alfred.
The following entry is Henry Chase who was arrested in October 1908 and charged with assault which took place during an attempt to ‘rush’ the House of Commons. Henry was arrested alongside Winifred Bray, Elizabeth Billing, and Kathleen Browne, to name a few of the around forty detained.
In court, evidence was given that Henry had been ‘very violent’ while attempting to break through a police cordon. Found guilty, he was fined a total of £25 and bound over to keep the peace for one year; in the alternative, he was imprisoned for six weeks.
There are sufficient details to trace Henry any further.
If you have any more information, please do get in touch.
May Chanot and her Sister
The next entry is M F Chanot arrested in July 1909; her full name was May Florence. No records have been found of the charges or sentence which came about from her part in a demonstration in the environs of the Houses of Parliament.
May was born in 1886 in Marylebone. Her father, Frederick, founded F W Chanot, a music publisher specialising in scores for the violin while also being well-known for his skills as a luthier. Frederick and his wife, Emily, had eight children; seven of whom were alive at the time of the 1911 census. Their two daughters, Emily, born in 1882, and May were both involved in the suffrage movement.
By the time of the 1901 census, the family were living on Holloway Road, north London. The two sisters are mentioned in two editions of Votes for Women during January 1910 when they helped during the general election campaign. The Liberal candidate secured a majority of thirty-one votes over the Conservative. An article in the newspaper credited this ‘very narrow margin’ as ‘striking proof of the strength of the women’s campaign.’
During the few days before the vote, the Holloway Branch held over thirty meetings and on election day a decorated wagon toured the constituency travelling from one polling station to another, each of which was manned by several women. Emily and May along with others such as Florence Spong were mentioned for their ‘most devoted help.’
No further mention has been found of either of the sisters in Votes for Women thereafter. However, neither is recorded on the 1911 census.
May married George Saint-George in 1913. Emily went on the be involved with the Church Suffrage League serving as secretary and sub-editor of the Church Militant from 1921 to 1927.
May died in 1982 in New Zealand.
Constance Chambers was arrested in March 1912 for insulting behaviour. She was fined forty shillings and bound over to keep the peace for twelve months. No further information has been locate