Charlotte Blacklock was a member of the Chelsea Branch of the WSPU. In the November 19th 1908 addition of Votes for Women she writes about the members parading the streets of Chelsea “wearing placards of purple, green and white..acting the part of sandwich men.” [i] Born in 1857 in Brighton she was the daughter of Joseph and Emma Blacklock. In the 1861 census return Joseph describes himself as chemist, druggist and soda water manufacturer. In 1876 Joseph died and Emma continued running the business with as he got older assistance from her eldest son Philip. Charlotte is not recorded on the census returns as having an occupation until the 1891 where she is stated to be a governess. From thereafter she does not appear on any census return. It maybe that working as a governess took her to Chelsea.
Charlotte was a regular columnist in Votes for Women reporting on the activities of the Chelsea branch. In the April 23rd 1909 edition she sets out the arrangements for the Chelsea Art stall and an intended visit by Laurence Housman who co-founded the Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage and was an acclaimed author. It was an artistic world that Charlotte was familiar through her relationship with her cousin, Amy Sawyer, an artist. On March 11th 1912 Charlotte was arrested for her part in a window smashing campaign being charged with damaging a window at the premises of Charles Lynton, Piccadilly valued at £6 15 shillings. Her defence informed the court that the value of the window was significantly smaller than that alleged. One hundred and twenty-six women were arrested having caused an alleged £4000 of damage. Charlotte was sentenced to four months imprisonment, a harsh sentence of a first offence. She went on hunger strike and was force fed. The WSPU awarded her a hunger strike medal which is now part of the collection at the Museum of Australian Democracy along with a portrait painted by her cousin Amy Sawyer. Charlotte moved in 1918 to Ditchling, Sussex. She died in 1931.
Violet Bland was born in 1863, the eldest child of William and Violet. The family lived in the village of Bayston Hill, a few miles south of Shrewsbury, Shropshire where her father worked as a labourer. As was often the way Violet left home and was employed as a kitchen maid at Dudmaston Hall about thirty miles from her family home.
No trace of Violet can be found until the early 1900s when she ran Henley Park Grove, a substantial house, as a Ladies College of Domestic Science from 1904 to 1911[ii] to the north of Bristol. In advertisements under the title of Ladies College is included Home for Health and Culture. Lectures were hosted by the Secretary of the Vegetarian Society, a Christmas party was promoted running from December 23rd 1904 to January 9th 1905 which included classes in hygienic cooking and food values for a cost of 35 shillings a week, this rose to 2 guineas a week if Swedish gymnastics and dancing classes were required. Lectures were to be held on subjects such as Uric Acid in Relation to Health or How the Vegetable World replaces the Animal World.
By 1906 Violet was no longer advertising the Ladies College but was offering first class board and lodgings complete with tennis and croquet. Over the year the advertisement altered drawing attention to the fact the property was heated in the winter and there was a gymnasium. The ever entrepreneurial Violet had branched out again by 1907 advertising for an attendant to assist with a rheumatic patient. Advertising for other staff who should be “useful help” explained “a boy” was “kept” already. Another required a man to tend the garden and the cow. By 1908 Violet had clearly moved far away from the original business selling off folding college beds and hockey sticks with pads described as nearly new. At the same time the Bristol authorities were planning to buy the house and open a hostel for men attending the Bristol Training College. Violet continued to sell off equipment from the school.
Violet joined the WSPU in Bristol. Lillian Dove Wilcox was also a member who was arrested in 1909 for being part of a deputation to the House of Commons. She was sentenced to one month in prison. She went on hunger strike. When her release date was known the women of the Bristol WSPU organised a reception committee to meet Lilian and Mary Allen, another released suffragette, off the train and accompany them in a procession to Violet’s house where refreshments were provided. One of the guests of honour was Annie Kenney who addressed the reception and along with Violet presented the ex-prisoners with leather belts with silver buckles. Violet spoke of the public spirit and endurance shown by the women.
In the Western Daily Press dated August 27th 1910 an advertisement was placed selling off furniture and effects from the house including twenty-one beds and over fifty chairs which indicates the size of the house. Not long afterwards Violet moved to London and opened a boarding house in central London.
Violet was first arrested for her part in Black Friday when the government dropped the charges against the women. The second arrest in March 1912 was alongside Ethel Baldock [see blog Three Bakers Two Baldocks]. They were jointly accused of breaking a window worth £10 at the Commercial Cable Company in Northumberland Avenue, London. Violet was sentenced to four months and was removed to Aylesbury Prison. In the July 5th 1912 edition of Votes for Women Violet described being force feed “They pinched and clutched my nose unmercifully …. and I did not rise quickly from the chair … they snatched the chair from under me, and flung me on the floor…. There is no doubt whatever about the attacks being made with the object of breaking us down… They twisted my neck, jerked my head back.. but pour it [the food] into one’s stomach .. They expect .. to perform the whole operation in two minutes. There were always six or seven to one..”
One her release Violet continued to run her West End boarding house. She died in 1940.
[i] Votes for Women November 19th 1908
[ii] The Heneleaze Book: Veronica Bowerman