Grace Chappelow was the daughter of John, a chartered accountant based in Lincoln's Inn, and Emily. The couple had two children: Claude 1880 and Grace 1884 who attended the North London Collegiate School, founded by Frances Buss, then located on Camden Road. By 1901 John and Emily's marriage seems to have run into difficulties. Emily and her two children are living in Tollington Park while John is absent; ten years later he is living in Thanet, Kent with Laura Bower who he later appointed his executor. Either there was a reconciliation, a ruse or for appearance's sake Emily was entered on the electoral roll living with John at 28 Highbury Grove from about 1920 onwards.
Grace was a gifted vocalist - described by one newspaper as possessing 'much promise'. Sometime after November 1903 Grace and Emily moved to Hatfield Peverel Essex settling by 1911 at Nounsley Villa. They appear to have been living in the area by April 1904 when Emily auctioned off some furniture. The first record of Grace's involvement with the suffrage movement was her arrest in connection with disturbances outside the Houses of Parliament. Charged with obstruction, Grace pleaded not guilty. Evidence was given that Grace had refused to move when requested to do so. To which she responded: 'I only did what I considered to be my duty'. The magistrate commented that 'It is our duty to support the police in keeping order'. Grace was ordered to be bound over to keep the peace in the sum of £5 or if she failed to pay, five days imprisonment. When asked if she agreed to be bound over, Grace replied: 'Certainly not'.
Grace and Emily, on and off, donated or collected funds for the WSPU. Grace participated in the demonstration, which became known as Black Friday. She was arrested, but as was the case for all, the charges were dropped. The following Friday Grace appeared in court charged with breaking a window. She pleaded guilty explaining that during Black Friday she had been 'very much knocked about by the police' and her current actions were in protest. She was fined forty shillings or fourteen days in prison. Grace elected for the latter entering gaol alongside Edith Begbie and Mabel Capper (see earlier blogs). She gave evidence to the enquiry into the actions of the police, during Black Friday, led by Henry Brailsford and Jessie Murray. Grace recounted that she was 'thumped and gripped by the throat'. A policeman grabbed her by the back of her collar, forcing her head towards the pavement; a position she was forced to proceed in down the street. While still bent, she received a 'terrific blow' to the left of her chest which 'nearly made her unconscious'.
On their release, a Welcome Breakfast was held at the Criterion Restaurant. Grace, among others, spoke to the assembled company. Referring to her Huguenot and Chartist ancestry, she said 'suffragettes were compelled by an unknown force to carry out anything and everything, even the dreadful ordeal of speaking at breakfasts. She was ready for anything that might come'. Grace does not appear in the 1911 census. While Emily is recorded, she has written across the form 'No vote No census E M E Chappelow'.
Two weeks later, Emily appeared before the Witham magistrates charged with being the owner of a dangerous dog which she had failed to keep under control. The policeman stated he had issued a warning about the dog previously. Grace was present when her mother was summonsed. In court, Emily's solicitor pointed out that the dog was Grace's, and she had licenced the animal. In consequence, Emily should not have been sent a summons. Emily was asked why she had not said anything at the time; 'I went on cooking my dinner … and did not take notice of what he was talking about'. She added that when a suffragette had visited the policeman 'had called on her about it'. Emily intended to move; she was so disillusioned with the constant interference. The summons was dismissed. The matter did not end there as the police then summoned Grace, who informed the court that to avoid any further trouble, she had rehomed the dog. She was fined thirteen shillings.
That summer the Women's Freedom League toured Essex with a caravan. Grace cycled over to support the women accompanied by Dorothea and Madeline Rock, fellow Essex suffragettes. In December Dorothea and Grace were charged with throwing stones at the Board of Trade windows. Three panes were broken valued at seven shillings and sixpence. Dorothea, in court, said 'We did it from a sense of duty, and we can only be stopped by granting us the vote, not by punishment'. Dorothea was fined or, in the alternative, jailed for five days. Grace received an additional two days as it was not her first offence.
The WSPU resolved to organise a campaign in Chelmsford; Grace chaired the initial meeting when the plans were outlined. Shortly afterwards, the Rock sisters, Grace and Fanny Pease were arrested for breaking windows at the Mansion House in the City of London. Dorothea and Grace were said to have broken eight panes in the kitchen windows. When searched Dorothea was found to have a hammer and Grace a few stones; it was said her hammer was left on the windowsill. The damage was valued at £2, which Grace felt was excessive. The Alderman hearing the case called it 'a little prank'. All four were sentenced to two months with hard labour.
Grace was back in court, only a few months after her release. She was again summonsed for not keeping a dog under proper control; this was the same dog which Grace had taken back after a couple of months absence. An almost equal number of witnesses were called damning or praising the animal. Grace was fined again, ordered to pay costs and to keep the dog under control. Saying she would appeal Grace, repeated her mother's intention of planning to leave the area. The Daily Herald ran a story a few months later with the headline 'Suffragist's Woes'. Grace visited their offices in London claiming she was being victimised. She had failed to pay the costs and was now being threatened with fourteen days in prison which Grace did not wish to serve. 'I absolutely refuse to pay as I consider it a great injustice. If I do not make a decided stand now, next I shall be summoned for a keeping a ferocious hen, or a dangerous cat'. Grace explained that since she and her mother became suffragettes, 'we have had no peace'.
Grace returned home, placing outside her home a large sign 'I am going to prison'. The authorities tried to reason with her, but Grace stood firm. On 18 November she was arrested and taken to Ipswich Gaol. Grace had replaced the sign with a new one which read 'Essex suffragette goes to prison'. The Daily Herald got behind Grace running a second story. It was hoped Grace would have, on her release, a 'rousing home-coming' because 'the more publicity that is given to the ways and methods of country benches of magistrates the better'. The amount of the costs was sent to the Daily Herald by a sympathetic reader.
Grace was soon back campaigning, lending her support to the WSPU Christmas fair. The following March Grace and friends provided the musical entertainment at a gathering of the East London Federation. Grace was joined in her support of the Federation by her paternal cousin, Eric, a poet, whose poems were printed in the Federation's newspaper, the Women's Dreadnaught. Eric was a conscientious objector who eventually was permitted to work with the Friends Ambulance service rather than being on active duty. Later he worked and lived at Garsington Manor, the home of Lady Ottoline Morrell, literary hostess and patron of the arts. Grace and Emily regularly contributed funds to the East Federation League both during and after the war.
In 1917 Nounsley Villa was sold at auction and they moved to the village of Ramsden Heath where they purchased Bishop's Farm. The Snapping the Stiletto project writes that locally Grace became known as the Goat Lady as she cycled around the countryside selling goat's milk. She eschewed modern innovations such as a television or telephone. Grace became involved with the local Women's Institute. Grace won a prize for her marmalade and spoke at a meeting on the difficulty of attracting attendees. By Christmas 1924 Grace was a committee member for the Bentley branch, sometimes providing a song or two as part of the entertainment.
The LSE Library holds an interview with Florence Konter who lived with Emily, Grace and Claude in which describes Grace's love of animals; she had thirteen cats, her commitment to vegetarianism and her admiration for Elizabeth Fry.
Emily died in 1941. Claude, who moved to Harringay, died eight years later. Grace died in 1971.
With thanks to Chelmsford Museum and Dr Mark Curteis for the use of the images
The next woman on the amnesty record is Greta Cameron alias Greta Cameron Swan whose actual name was Grace Cameron Swan. The first report of Grace being active in the suffrage movement is a donation to the WSPU £20000 fund of £3 in May 1908. By the following spring, Grace is the secretary of the Croydon Branch of the WSPU; both chairing and addressing meetings. In May, Grace chaired a meeting, in South Norwood, at which Christabel Pankhurst and a campaigner released from prison spoke. As women were arrested and sent to gaol, the WSPU would invite them to meetings after their release, not only to show their appreciation but to learn of their experiences. Few, who attended those meetings, would have been unaware of what, potentially, faced them. Grace spoke, a few weeks later, at a meeting of the Brixton branch, about militant tactics receiving a ‘most attentive hearing.’
Grace was tireless and resilient. The WSPU organised events across London during the third week of June. Grace spoke on four consecutive days at outdoor locations; on occasion without support to a heckling crowd. A few days later she was in south London doing the same. Grace then joined the demonstration that accompanied another attempt to deliver a petition to the Prime Minister, Asquith, at the House of Commons; this was the suffragettes’ thirteenth attempt. The newspapers report that over three thousand police were drafted into the area. The suffragettes gathered at Caxton Hall, passing through a police cordon to gain entry, before marching towards the Houses of Parliament. Seven women formed the deputation, tasked with presenting the petition. One was Dorinda Neligan, the retired founding headmistress of the Croydon High School for Girls with whom Grace campaigned in Croydon. The group of seven suffragettes set off towards the Houses of Parliament. The deputation was repeatedly refused entry; scuffles broke out in the surrounding area, and the police began arresting women.
One was Grace. It was stated that she had put her arm around a policeman’s neck in an attempt to free an arrested woman. In a speech, after her release from prison, Grace refuted the testimony. She had seen a woman, wearing suffrage colours, thrown to the ground, and injured by a mounted policeman. Rushing to her aid, Grace put her arm around the woman to assist, not the policeman as claimed. Refusing to be bound over to keep the peace, Grace was sentenced to fourteen days in prison.
Although, Grace had heard women speak of their prison experiences; it is clear from an article she wrote for Votes for Women the reality was an eyeopener: ‘We were in ‘Black Maria’ – such a jolting and rumbling I had never experienced before! Was the horror of it all worth the end? Down, down went my heart!’ When the prisoners arrived, they gave a cheer of ‘Votes for Women’ to rally ‘Miss Corson’ who was in solitary confinement. Grace was appalled by the demeanour of the prison matron ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter here (under her inhuman charge!)’. Grace was placed in a punishment cell for all but one day and night of her sentence, leaving her with no choice but to lie on her bed ‘growing weaker hour by hour’ as she refused food. The prison chaplain tried to persuade her to ‘be a good girl, put on prison clothing, be happy and read nice books!’ Grace found the constant ‘clashing of doors and clanging of keys’ hard to tolerate. Lying awake one night, the moon shone through the window of her cell ‘casting the shadow of a barred square on the wall’, which made her ‘realise more fully than anything else the horrors of the system represented by those cruel bars.’ The third division prisoners cleaned the cells. One was a young woman, around twenty years of age, who Grace asked why she was in prison. The woman whispered back that she had attempted suicide adding ‘This is what it has brought me to. They don’t let you forget it’. Grace writes: ‘Here is work for us to see to after we have gained the needful tool – the Vote’. The encounter made Grace forget ‘the horror of [her]situation … for I saw more clearly than ever the work that lay before us’. Grace was released, along with seven others, having served six days of her fourteen-day sentence.
Grace swiftly returned to the campaign, speaking in the pouring rain for over an hour on Streatham Common or travelling to Crouch End in north London to speak; to name two examples of her busy campaigning schedule. The following January, Grace was an integral part of the campaign during the general election in Bradford. Grace, Laura Ainsworth (see earlier blog) and Mary Phillips addressed up to three meetings each day. Still a driving force within the Croydon branch, Grace realised that selling the newspaper, Votes for Women, on the streets afforded an opportunity to connect with women and explain the importance of the vote. She set out to recruit young women to undertake this work alongside encouraging new speakers: ‘Come, and attempt what you think is impossible! You will succeed. The spirit of suffering womanhood calls you, and we have all had ‘to make a beginning’’. The purpose of obtaining the vote, as Grace saw it, was to give women a voice to tackle evils such as gambling, intemperance or the white slave traffic; ‘it was the burning desire to remedy such evils as these that banded women together in this noble army.’
In the Autumn of 1910, Grace again joined Annie Kenney, campaigning this time in the west of England addressing meetings in Castle Cary, Shepton Mallet and Swindon. On her return, Grace helped to organise a rally in support of the Conciliation Bill at Duppas Hill in Croydon. Three platforms were erected; one of which was chaired by Grace.
The WSPU branch, in part thanks to Grace’s efforts, was successfully standing independently financially from the WSPU head office in Clement’s Inn. Grace joined a deputation from nine suffrage groups who marched to the offices of Croydon Town Council to present a petition calling for the vote. The council declined to consider the request as it was a political question. Grace wrote to the local newspaper explaining what had occurred and requesting the paper print her letter ‘for the instruction of the women ratepayers.’ She also wrote another letter addressed to a local councillor, for whom Grace had campaigned, pointing out that he had ‘primed her with [his] political opinions’ and yet, had declined to support the motion to consider the petition as it was a political matter. Her letter closes ‘Trusting you will oblige me with an explanation’.
Dorinda Neligan had goods seized for her refusal to pay taxes. A silver teapot, sugar basin and jug, all family heirlooms, came up for auction. Anne Cobden Sanderson, a founding member of the Tax Resistance League, attended the sale along with other supporters. The auctioneer acknowledged that the women wished to protest at the lots being auctioned, giving them the platform. Anne, clutching the League’s banner, addressed the assembled potential bidders, explaining the purpose of the group. The women then withdrew to the street where Grace chaired a meeting. A local journalist confused by the distinction between suffragette and suffragists approached Grace for assistance who explained that ‘gist’ wants a vote whereas ‘gette’ intends to get it.
In November 1911, Asquith was the guest of honour at a dinner held at Bedford College for Women. Grace and Leslie Hall succeeded in gaining admittance. Directed to different tables, Grace found herself seated next to Asquith. She introduced herself. Asquith, according to Grace, in evident fear, asked her intention. ‘Wait and see’ she replied. Leslie appeared behind the Prime Minister, and she and Grace explained their position in what was described as ‘a nice little talk’. The two women were then ushered out. One newspaper carried the headline, the following morning, ‘Shameless Suffragettes’.
The following year, Grace spoke in Melbourne, Australia, of women’s suffrage calling for more women doctors and chaplains. A Melbourne newspaper carried a report commenting on the ‘graceful way she glossed over the anarchical proceedings of her friends in the homeland’. Throwing a bottle at a car which potentially held a Cabinet Minister ‘was lightly touched on as merely symbolic action’, throwing stones ‘was only an act of protest’. The journalist was clearly bemused that the audience was sympathetic.
On her return from Australia, Grace continued to campaign and support the WSPU in Croydon. In November 1912, Grace chaired one of fifteen platforms at the Great Demonstration in the East End of London which marched from Bow to Victoria Park. Early the following year, Emmeline Pankhurst visited Croydon. It was widely reported that Emmeline and suffragette supporters had been mobbed. Grace wrote to the local paper correcting the portrayal. A few young men had thrown tomatoes and rotten eggs; ‘such manifestations of bad temper, might, perhaps, by a stretch of imagination, be described as missiles’. The only arrest was of a man who identified himself as a ‘civilian policeman’. Grace closed her letter: ‘When the women get the votes, suffragettes will make a point of throwing a very strong searchlight upon the use and misuse of plain clothes men’. A letter, challenging Grace’s, was published a few weeks later; it asserted the missive was ‘an unpleasant illustration of the type of person who is seeking to achieve notoriety by the suffragette agitation’. By this point, Grace was nearly seven months pregnant with her daughter, Frances, who was born in May.
After the birth of her daughter, Grace returned to campaigning. In an attempt to raise awareness of the barbarity of force-feeding she organised a deputation to visit the clergy of Croydon. One vicar, who had been unaware of the reality of force-feeding, agreed to host a public meeting of the clergy of the town to protest at the treatment. Another was reluctant to be involved but when the women refused to take no for an answer reluctantly agreed to put a resolution before a meeting of the local clergy condemning force-feeding. When Grace gave a speech to the Golders Green branch, she was introduced as the militant who had spent twenty-hours under the platform at St George’s Hall until her moment came to interrupt the speakers.
Lydia Grace Williamson was born in 1879 to William, a fish merchant and Celia. At the time of her birth, the family were living in Bermondsey. Grace, as she was known, had three sisters and brother. In January 1900 Grace’s mother died. Ten months later Grace married Donald Cameron Swan, the son of Joseph, a developer of the first incandescent light bulb. Donald and his father founded the Swan Engraving Company using methods developed by Joseph to reproduce, for example, paintings and photographs. Donald, himself, invented various improvements and was awarded medals by the Royal Society of Arts and Royal Photographic Society. The couple initially lived in Hammersmith but later moved to Sanderstead in Surrey. When Grace was arrested in 1909, she had two small sons born in 1902 and 1903.
Donald was supportive of his wife. The Men’s Political Union for Women’s Enfranchisement was founded in 1910; Donald sat on the executive committee holding the office of Parliamentary Secretary. He was also a member of the Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage holding the position of honorary organising secretary. With two others Donald met with the Member of Parliament for Croydon canvassing for support arguing ‘that the denial of the justice of women’s demand hinders the development of the race, and causes poverty … the complete human point of view is man’s and woman’s combined.’ While Grace chaired one platform at the rally on Duppas Hill in 1910, Donald chaired another explaining the injustice of withholding the vote from tax-paying women. Donald completed the 1911 census return recording he was married, and including his sons, Grace is missing. When Emmeline Pankhurst left for a trip to America during the Autumn of 1911, Donald was among the party who gathered at Waterloo Station to bid her farewell.
During World War I, Donald served in the Volunteer Battalion of the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment eventually being appointed a Captain in the RAF. Grace was a superintendent, under Lilian Baker, in a high explosive department in Woolwich. She undertook a tour of the munitions factories in France reporting back to Lloyd George, the then minister for munitions. After the war in 1920, Grace was appointed by the Council of the Industrial Welfare Society as the organiser of women and girls’ welfare selecting women supervisors for employers. The newspaper report of Grace’s new role concludes ‘there is no woman in the country who is more fitted to fulfil such momentous duties.’ Grace wrote an article setting out in detail how she viewed her role, the type of women she was seeking to recruit and working conditions: ‘workers have a right to expect healthy and pleasant conditions while performing their duties.’
In 1922 the family emigrated to South Africa to run a guest house near Table Mountain. Grace continued to work to improve industrial conditions and promoting women’s rights. Grace died in 1947 and Donald four years later in 1951.
A huge thank you to Iona, Grace and Donald’s granddaughter who kindly contributed and allowed me to use her photographs
vy Bon was arrested in May and June 1914. Her first arrest was for breaking windows in Grosvenor Square, found guilty she was sentenced to two months imprisonment. Force-fed she was released under the Cat and Mouse Act.
Only just released from prison, Ivy was arrested for attacking two pictures at the Dore Galleries: Love Wounded by Bartolozzi and a drawing of the Grand Canal in Venice by John Chapland. The manager grabbed her to prevent any further damage, but Ivy put up a struggle until the police arrived. In court, Ivy refused to give her address. In evidence, a letter was produced which Ivy had left at the Galleries. In the missive, Ivy vowed that she was prepared to die for the cause, which was now a war. The case was adjourned. At her trial Ivy continuously screamed ‘Torturers, murderers! I will do it again and again until we get justice’. She was sentenced to six months in prison. With the outbreak of the First World War Ivy would have been released under the government pardon. Nothing else has been found out as to Ivy’s identity. The name appears to be an alias; next to her entry in the amnesty record it says ‘unknown’.
The next two entries are Richard and Alfred Bond arrested in October 1908. The event at which they were arrested had been well advertised beforehand. The WSPU hired a steam launch decorating it with banners and flags announcing the planned demonstration; for a whole afternoon, it sailed up and down the Thames eventually arriving at Putney during a well-attended sculling competition. Handbills were handed out on numerous street corners. The event, in question, was the intention of a delegation to obtain access to the Houses of Parliament. Its high-profile advertising meant that the authorities were aware of the women’s intention giving them plenty of time to prepare a response. Mrs Pankhurst was invited to discuss the situation with the authorities but instead hosted a meeting to rally support further.
On the evening of 18 October, the streets between Trafalgar Square and the Houses of Parliament were heaving with police, some mounted. The numbers differ from each newspaper report, but the police admitted to five thousand men. A cordon was placed around Parliament, and the crowds were swept back at every attempt to move closer. At Trafalgar Square, where many had gathered the mounted police climbed the steps preventing the masses from progressing towards their intended destination. A deputation left from Caxton Hall, but they too were turned back. May Billington was one of those arrested alongside Richard and Alfred.While the Votes for Women newspaper, dated 19 October 1908, gives small biographies on most of the women arrested at the end it simply states, “and twelve men”. Both men were charged with obstruction, found guilty they were bound over to keep the peace and fined £5. No biographical information is given, which would shed some light on their motives. It seems though from the press coverage that the event was also attended by people with other gripes such as unemployment which might explain their involvement.
The next entry is also a man called James Booty arrested on 27 July 1913. Sylvia Pankhurst, who was on licence released from prison under the Cat and Mouse Act, was invited to speak at a Free Speech Committee rally in Trafalgar Square. The day before, in the East End of London, Sylvia addressed a gathering explaining that the invitation was conditional on her refraining from attempting to enter Downing Street to present a petition. Such an undertaking ‘would curtail my freedom of speech, for I implicitly believe that the argument of sticks and stones from the East End, will bring about a general revolt that will win for women the vote…our motto in future must be ‘Deeds not words.’ Sylvia intended to attend the rally and at its close march to Downing Street confident that she could ‘rely on your protection to prevent my being re-arrested’.As planned, Sylvia led over a thousand people towards Whitehall and Downing Street. A line of police officers stood firm across Whitehall. Many of the crowd attempted to burst through. Twelve women, including Sylvia and eleven men, one of whom was James, were arrested. James was alleged to have grabbed a policeman by the throat and struck another. He was fined 40 shillings or a month imprisonment. His response when arrested was “I must have gone mad”. The magistrate observed that many respectable people appeared to have been swept up in the moment. Nothing else has been found out about James.
Lilian Borovikovsky, known as Lilly, was arrested in February 1909. She was born Lilian Bertha Dora Prust on 30 August 1880 to Christopher and Louisa. Her father, a vaccination officer, died in 1882, leaving her widowed mother with two daughters aged one and three. Louisa remarried in 1902, Charles Teague, a Cheltenham musician who played the organ at the local family church and was a well-renowned cellist. Lilian’s sister Emily married and moved to Finland although she returned to live in Cheltenham in the early 1920s. Lilian married Sergi Alexandrovitch Borovikovsky in June 1902; the groom was described as of the Russian Finance Office in Petersburg. Lilian met Sergi through her cousin Helen who was, first, married to a Russian called Chrouschoff. Just before the ceremony, Lilian was baptised into the Church of England. A Russian service followed the nuptials at the Russian Embassy in London. Two years later Lilian gave birth to a son Sergei. In 1905 her husband was appointed to a commission on press censoring by the Czar, embroiled in the Russian crisis Lilian returned to Cheltenham and never returned.
As a child, Lilian appears to have attended Cheltenham Ladies College and later their annual reunions. She became a member of the Women’s Freedom League. She was elected to the committee in January 1909 at a meeting held at the Cheltenham Vegetarian Hotel.
Lilian was part of a delegation led by Charlotte Despard. The latter attempted to deliver a petition to the Houses of Parliament. They were met by a considerable police presence including some on horseback. She was arrested and charged with obstruction. Found guilty she was sentenced to one month’s imprisonment of which she served two weeks; released due to failing health.
After her release, the Women’s Freedom League hosted a reception to welcome her home themed as an American Tea Party and sale. Lilian was clear that she would be more than happy to take part in another demonstration as she now felt more “suffragettish”, on this basis, she encouraged all at the gathering to accompany her next time. Lilian was presented with the Holloway badge given to all women who served time in the prison and a copy of the Awakening of Women by Mrs Swiney. All the proceeds were donated to the Despard Prisoners Fund.
Lilian continued to be involved with the Women’s Freedom League becoming the Cheltenham Branch Honorary Secretary. During the First World War Lilian trained with the Red Cross. Lilian died on 25 May 1926, a patient of Gloucester Mental Hospital.
The next entry is for Boadicea, an apt name given on arrest designed no doubt to infuriate the police. The person’s real name is Lilian Dove Willcox. She was one of two released prisoners feted at a reception at Violet Bland’s house in Bristol.The next name is Lillie Boileau, who was arrested twice. Lillie Maud Boileau was born circa 1870 in Purayh, India to Neil and Mary, Neil was a retired army major general. The second of four daughters her father died in 1895 and the family permanently settled in England.
Lillie was one of five women charged with obstruction in respect of a picket outside 10 Downing Street. The others were Mrs Cranston, Charlotte Despard, Mrs Cobden Sanderson and Mrs Hicks. Members of the Women’s Freedom League the women had been taking it in turns to man the picket, usually in pairs. Lillie attempted to present a petition to Asquith, who replied: “Don’t be so silly.” The size of the picket grew, ensuring that Asquith would have to face them whichever way he chose to leave. At that point, the police attempted to move the women on. On their refusal, two were arrested. Charlotte Despard protested, and as she and Mrs Cobden tried to take the others place, they too were arrested along with the others on the picket.
At their first appearance in court, the women stated that they were going to claim the police for damages. On the understanding that they would stay away from Downing Street, the case was adjourned for a week. In the meantime, the women rallied support. On 26 August they organised a meeting at Caxton Hall where all the women addressed the meeting explaining their belief, based on the Bill of Rights, that all citizens regardless of sex had the right to petition the government.
When the case reconvened, a week later, the women were represented by Timothy Healy, an Irish Nationalist MP, barrister. The defence stated that the women had a constitutional right to present a petition; the prosecution that the document was not prepared in the correct way to conform legally to a petition. However, the police admitted they had not examined the document. The women had been charged with obstructing the police in their duty. While it was argued, what they had actually been doing was potentially obstructing the pavement with which they were not charged. After hearing the evidence, the case was adjourned for a further week, when despite the apparent flaw in the charges, the women were found guilty and fined 40 shillings or seven days in prison.
The women, however, were granted the right to appeal. A letter appeared in several newspapers signed by Charlotte Despard, Mrs Cobden Sanderson and Mrs Hicks explaining the appeal and asking for donations to pay for it. It was an appeal they were to lose. Lillie amongst others travelled to Wales to promote the cause. They were met with fierce opposition by some. In Newtown they were refused lodgings and were eventually taken in by a member of the WSPU for the night, an attempt to hold an open-air meeting was met with a crowd determined to prevent it from happening, and the women had to take refuge in a shop. In meetings behind closed doors, the rooms were packed and support unanimous, but outside it continued to be a different story.
While in Wales Lillie gave an interview to the Montgomeryshire Express and Radnor Times. She described the campaign in Wales as broadly successful particularly in Newton where they had encountered the most opposition but also received the greatest support. In one town small boys pushed up against Lillie pummelling her with their fists. She pushed one boy away. His mother shouted that she would bash Lillie’s head in. The women abandoned their plans and walked to the railway station. The angry crowd followed, but with the help of station staff, they safely boarded the train. The mother had followed and informed Lillie that she had a dog whip which she was keen to use. News came that the appeal had been unsuccessful and Lillie was aware that on her return to London she would be arrested.
Alongside her suffragette activities, Lillie was a member of the Union of Ethical Societies which promoted living within ethical boundaries which would lead to people living in a way that supported others and thus a better world. The union supported areas such as women’s suffrage, penal reform and assistance for the poor. After her death, she was described as “one of its most intelligent, loyal and sympathetic collaborators.”
Lillie was arrested again in November 1913. Following a meeting at Caxton Hall, addressed by Charlotte Despard who called for women agitators to have the same rights as male agitators, four of the women drove to Downing Street to present a resolution to this effect. The remainder walked to St James’s Park gathering on the steps between Downing Street and Horse Guards Parade. Miss Murray began to address the crowd and was immediately arrested for obstruction. Three more arrests followed, including Lillie. All three were charged with obstruction. They were released on bail with surety being paid by Charlotte Despard.
At the subsequent hearing, the evidence was that by standing where they had a public pathway had been blocked. Lillie was fined £5 and bound over to keep the peace for six months. Lillie refused. She was held until the end of the hearing and then released unconditionally. Lillie was back in court a week later as a witness for two of the accused women, Miss Boyle and Miss Murray, as their hearing had been adjourned. Unsurprisingly both women were found guilty, like Lillie they refused to pay the fine or agree to keep the peace. They were imprisoned in the alternate for one day.
Lillie continued to be involved in the Union of Ethical Studies and campaigned for a variety of causes. She died in 1930.
The next entry is for “Miss Black” who was arrested on 22 December 1913 in Cheltenham together with “Miss Red” who was subsequently identified as Lilian Lenton. The identity of Miss Black was never known for sure. Lilian used several aliases and became a thorn in the side of the authorities. Column inches in the press were dedicated to discussing her actions and treatment at the hands of the authorities.Lilian’s first arrest was in March 1912 when she gave her name as Ida Inkley from Slough.
Born Lilian Ida Lenton in 1891, she was the eldest daughter of Isaac, a carpenter and joiner and Mahalah. She grew up in Leicester. When Lilian, later, became a dancer she adopted the stage name Ida Inkley. Lilian joined the Women’s Social and Political Union early in 1912 and, shortly afterwards, she was sentenced to two months imprisonment for smashing Post Office windows in Oxford Street valued at £3. Isabel Inglis, who was charged along with Lilian, received the same sentence.
In February 1913 Lilian was arrested alongside Joyce Locke [aka Olive Wharry] and charged with arson in respect of the destruction by fire of the tea rooms at Kew Gardens. A policeman stated he had seen them fleeing the scene dropping a portmanteau which was found to contain among other things cloth smelling strongly of paraffin. Suffrage literature was found near the building. The police recommended that bail should not be granted to which Lilian grabbed some paperwork and threw it at the magistrate. Forcibly removed from court, the two women were remanded in custody. The damage was estimated to be in the region of £1000.Lilian arrived at Holloway prison on 21 February. She refused to be examined, declined to provide the medical staff with any details of previous medical conditions or her name. The deputy medical officer formed the opinion that ‘she was of rather spare physique …. not being a particularly strong looking woman.’ The same day Lilian was reported and punished for misconduct. Her general conduct was described as ‘bad, very defiant’. Lilian smashed everything she could in the first cell in which she was placed and was removed to a ‘special strong cell’ separated from other prisoners.
Lilian immediately went on hunger strike. A decision was made to commence force-feeding two days after her admission on 23 February as Lilian was ‘presenting symptoms of malnutrition.’ An examination, which she resisted, did not present any signs of ‘organic mischief in the chest’ to suggest the process should not take place. Although, the caveat was added that the examination had not been full due to Lilian’s violent resistance. Her colour was noted to be ‘not particularly good’ but, this was put down to her refusal of food over several days. Lilian regurgitated most of the liquid, ‘peptonised milk’, rich in calcium and carbohydrate, with which she was force-fed and her colour ‘became rather worse.’ At some point, but, when is not clear, a note was added to Lilian’s records ‘It would be highly dangerous to forcibly feed in this case again.’Nearly three hours later Lilian was found ‘in a very collapsed condition….blanched, with lips cyanosed -sighing respiration and a thin running pulse.’ Lilian said she had pain around her heart and chest. The doctor administered strychnine and digitalis. Only when Lilian was told she would be released on condition she returned did she take some food. The doctor described her state as critical for several hours.
So concerned were the medical attendants that one accompanied Lilian on her release to her friend’s house in Mornington Crescent. The friend informed the medical officer that Lilian had been complaining of shortness of breath and chest pain for some time. The officer formed the view that Lilian might have pleurisy. Discussion with Lilian’s doctor led to a diagnosis of pneumonia; although doubt is thrown on this verdict in a file note. Whatever the case, the file notes that this condition could not be caused by force feeding but was made more likely by starvation. In a letter to the magistrates explaining the reasons behind Lilian’s release the author wrote that the medical officer had felt that if force feeding had continued or Lilian had been permitted to continue starving herself her life ‘had been in immediate danger.’
In all the communications that centred around her release, no mention is made of her critical condition or the suspicion of pleurisy.Lilian later gave a statement to the press. When the decision was made to administer force feeding, she was tied to the chair. Seven wardresses and two doctors were present. Lilian resisted strenuously managing to expel the nasal tube, which was immediately reinserted. This time Lilian states her breathing became noisy and rattling. She coughed up the majority of the food and struggled to breathe. Two further attempts were made with the same result. When Lilian was untied; she could not stand. She was helped to a mattress and pillow which were brought in and placed on the floor.Worried by the rapid deterioration in her health Lilian rang a bell for help. A doctor, who attended, sent for blankets and a hot water bottle. Lilian would be released, the doctor and prison governor who had been summoned informed her, if she undertook to appear at court. Verbally Lilian agreed but was not requested to sign any paperwork. In the flurry of concern over her health, the prison authorities forgot to complete a medical report on discharge which they then had to prepare retrospectively to provide to the court and others.Joyce, her fellow arrestee, was brought before the magistrate. Lilian, now on the run, failed to appear in court.
Letters on the file indicate that the authorities believed that Lilian would not present herself at court due to her ill health and were shocked she was now missing. The counsel for the Crown stated that the Home Secretary had been informed that Lilian would “infallibly die” unless she was released and, thus he had ordered her liberty from Holloway prison. A warrant was issued for her arrest. The magistrate expressed his astonishment at this turn of events.Enquiries were made at the headquarters of the WSPU as to Lilian’s whereabouts but, on being informed she was still dangerously ill, it was decided not to implement the warrant. The resulting protests in the press led the Home Office to issue a statement which made it clear that the Home Secretary had had three choices to let her die, force feed her which could have caused her death given the state of her health or release her on licence. Her accomplice, Joyce, meanwhile was tried and found guilty being ordered to pay the trial costs, damages and sentenced to eighteen months in prison.
The release of Lilian and the general question regarding the correctness of releasing prisoners who were force feed and too ill to remain in prison rumbled on. In the House of Commons, questions were asked of the Home Secretary by several MPs who felt that he was failing to uphold the rule of law where the suffragettes were concerned. Three doctors wrote to the Times reiterating the claim that Lilian had been made gravely ill by the process of force feeding and, condemned the practice. According to the Home Secretary, he had spoken with Lilian’s personal doctor who was of the view that the pleurisy was not caused by the factors cited by the three doctors who had not, in fact, examined her. The government was in an awkward position not, wishing the women to starve themselves to death and thus becoming martyrs.
Throughout all the furore Lilian remained on the run even if the Home Office believed she was recuperating. She made a dramatic reappearance on 10 June during the trial at the Doncaster courts of Harry Johnson and Augusta Winship accused of burglary with the intent of committing a felony, burning down a house. May Dennis was called as a defence witness and announced that it was, in fact, she who had committed the offence not one of the defendants. It was then discovered that May was actually Lilian. She was arrested and placed in the dock alongside Harry. Lilian refused to enter a plea as she did not recognise the court.
Placed on remand pending trial Lilian was taken to Armley prison where she refused food and to be medically examined. Lilian who had declined to request bail at court was urged to do so by the prison governor who felt the magistrates would not refuse. The governor relayed this information by telephone to the Home Office who then wrote to the magistrates. Given the furore that had been stirred up by Lilian’s time at Holloway, it is clear the authorities wished to avoid a repetition. While it was possible to free Lilian under the Cat and Mouse Act; the preferred option was for the magistrates to grant bail with sureties. This neatly avoided any apparent involvement by the Home Office who had to sanction release under the Cat and Mouse and would potentially encourage Lilian to return to court if her sureties stood to lose their money if she did not. It was a strategy that relied on sureties being provided and, as a solicitor, approached by the Director of Public Prosecutions, pointed out this could prove difficult if not impossible.
Letters were exchanged as to the basis on which Lilian could be released given the belief she would abscond. As the suggestion as to bail appeared to be destined for failure the next idea was to send her to hospital with, if necessary, the expense being borne by the authorities. The problem with this plan was the possibility that Lilian would continue to refuse food at the hospital. Suspension of the sentence could not be made as Lilian had yet to be tried. As she was on remand awaiting in effect two trials, she was going to remain a thorn in authorities side opening them up to criticism if she fled again and failed to face the court.To ensure that Lilian could be identified in the future, the prison officers took her fingerprints. A note on the file reports that while a set of fingerprints is held, they are not particularly useful, as Lilian violently resisted them being taken.
Lilian continued to refuse food, informing the medical officer that she had not eaten for two days, before her appearance at court, knowing she would be returned to prison. The medical report two days after her admission indicates that Lilian was far from well: ‘her breath is very foul-she has not had any action of the bowel since admission…her pulse is thin and rapid and today she complains of neuralgia – and of giddiness.’ The medical officer recommended bed rest which Lilian agreed to. An addendum to the note by the prison governor states that Lilian informed him subsequently that she last ate on the 8th, seven days previously.
The following day, 16 June, a handwritten note indicates that pleurisy was suspected. Lilian was released the next morning and taken to the house of Mrs Rutter of Chapel Allerton, Leeds. She was not released on bail but by the Secretary of State under the Cat and Mouse Act. The Chief Constable of Leeds was requested to deploy officers to keep Lilian ‘under close supervision.’ She was released for two days after which time she had to present herself back at the prison. If she absconded before the expiration of the two days, Lilian could not be arrested but should be kept under surveillance. If she boarded a train to London, a telegram had to be dispatched to the Metropolitan police as they held a warrant for arrest in connection with the previous charge of arson. Even if Lilian remained at large after two days so long as she did not abscond, she was to be left alone at least until the date she was due to appear in court. The reasoning being that if Lilian was well enough to flee, she was well enough to return to prison. If no attempt was made, Lilian was still too ill. It was imperative that Lilian was not aware she was being watched.The Chief Constable deployed a Detective Inspector and two Detectives at the house.
By 8.30 pm on the 17th, the day of her release, Lilian had gone. In a well-organised plan, a fellow suffragette Elsie Duval came in through the back door dressed as an errand boy eating an apple and carrying a large and heavy hamper. Lilian swopped clothing with Elsie and went out carrying the now empty hamper, eating the apple. She jumped into a cart and disappeared. The police at the front and the rear of the house stood by believing it was a genuine delivery.Travelling by taxi to Harrogate and then Scarborough, Lilian adopted the disguise of a children’s nurse carrying the baby son of a fellow WSPU member. On arrival at the railway station, a policeman helpfully opened the taxi door at which point Lilian hid her face behind the child to prevent the officer from recognising her. From there she took a train to Edinburgh.The legal advice was that Lilian’s accomplices could be prosecuted but, this approach was rapidly abandoned when it was pointed out that, in court, an escape ‘so humorous and so successful … could not fail to bring ridicule upon the police officers who unconsciously assisted.’ The authorities were aware that Lilian was in Scotland and photographs were circulated to the Scottish police. Although, this step was not taken until early July when concerns began to be raised that Lilian would fail to appear in court which she did.
Lilian alluded the police until 7 October when she was arrested at Paddington Station collecting a bicycle from left luggage. Sent to gaol on remand Lilian again went on hunger strike. The medical report on admission concludes ‘physique spare mental condition apparently normal.’ Lilian was taken before the court on the 9th. Returned to prison, she continued to refuse food. A note from the medical officer states that force-feeding ‘in view of the previous history …would be attended with considerable risk.’ Despite this warning, Lilian was force-fed the following day by oesophageal tube, following an examination by Herbert Smalley, medical advisor to the Home Office who concluded that if Lilian was deemed to be an improper person to be released under the Cat and Mouse Act she should be force fed. This was despite her medical history and the fact Lilian refused to be examined; another doctor supported his finding.The force feeding continued twice a day. Lilian often vomited and only then would the feeding stop. It was noted that Lilian ‘wore very thin and scanty attire and walks about in bare feet, evidently with the intention of making herself ill.’
Lilian resisted each time, and, by day three, the nasal tube was tried instead of the oesophageal tube to see if this prevented her vomiting. The idea failed as Lilian retched, bringing back both the food and the tube. The medical officer felt Lilian was being exhausted by the process and did not try a second time that day. Instead, deciding to wait upon instructions from the Home Office. Dr Smalley visited Holloway prison and assisted in further attempts to feed Lilian which failed. In a report to the Home Office, he pointed out that force feeding had primarily failed and that Lilian had not received any meaningful nutrition in over six days. He concluded ‘I think the question will arise tomorrow whether she can be retained much longer without considerable risk.’
By the 15th of the month, a handwritten note on the file records that Lilian had received only a small amount of food via force feeding which had been tried by both nasal and oesophageal tube and that otherwise, she had been without food for eight days. Lilian refused any form of examination. In consequence, Lilian was released on licence to return to prison on the 20th. A file note records that the police had been requested to supervise Lilian but, given her previous behaviour ‘their task will be a difficult one.’ She was dispatched in a taxi to stay with a Mrs Diplock in Putney. Before Lilian left, she took a ‘very little milk and soda.’ Although her condition was described as ‘fairly satisfactory’ it was noted that ‘the signs of malnutrition were well marked.’ Lilian, a doctor notes, was complaining of ‘gastric pains’ and her hand was observed to be twitching. ‘Self starvation after today’ was considered inadvisable.
Not unsurprisingly Lilian failed to present herself at Holloway prison on the 18th. The press named her the “elusive suffragette.” On 22 December Miss Black and Miss Scarlett appeared before the court in Cheltenham. The women were charged with setting fire to Alstone Lawn, an unoccupied mansion, owned by Colonel De Sales La Terriere whose mother had lived in the house as a child and adult. A beautiful and substantial house; it had been placed on the market when the Colonel inherited, but, it had failed to sell as the area surrounding it was becoming less rural. The fire was brought under control swiftly but not without damage to the roof which was left with a hole in it and to the staircase which was utterly destroyed. The two charged women were said to have arrived in Cheltenham by train from Birmingham on the day of the fire. It was found that paraffin had been sprinkled at the seat of the fire and that footprints led away to the door. Suffragette literature was found in the house and the two women, who were said to be wearing clothes that smelt strongly of paraffin, were arrested the next day. The damage was estimated at £400. The house was left empty and later demolished.
The two appeared in court barefoot with long loose hair, other than commenting on man-made laws they said nothing. They were taken to Worcester jail pending a full hearing. On arrival, Lilian did the same as she had done previously announcing she had not eaten for two days. She refused to give her name, age, or to be examined. An officer was dispatched from Holloway prison with photographs of Lilian on Christmas Eve which allowed an identification. Lilian continued to refuse both food and water. Her condition was described as ‘the pulse is decidedly weak & the breath offensive… She seems much weaker than on admission.’ Her trial date was the 29th, but it was not believed Lilian could survive without food that long.On Christmas Day Lilian was released and taken by train and cab, accompanied by a prison matron, to an address in Birmingham. Learning of her impending release, Lilian took some water, and a friend met her partway through her journey with sandwiches and milk. Lilian was dubbed in the press the Illusive Pimpernel. Lilian failed to appear in court for the trial at the beginning of January 1914. The police applied to the court for a warrant for her arrest. The magistrate pointed out none was necessary for an arrest as Lilian had been released under the provisions of the Cat and Mouse Act. The police replied that they had been specifically directed by the Home Office to request a warrant. The magistrate, although perplexed by the police’s insistence, complied and issued one.
Neither women were not without front. A couple of weeks later, a solicitor appeared before the same court requesting the return of a postal order, jewellery and money found on the women when they were arrested. On being questioned as to from whom he had received his instructions, the solicitor stated it was a representative of the two women whose names he did not know. Not unsurprisingly the request was denied.
In a BBC interview first aired on 1 January, 1960 Lilian described her escape. When the women were released on licence under the Cat and Mouse Act they would be delivered, often by the police, to a house where they were to remain until their health sufficiently recovered for them to be returned to prison. Whilst in residence, the house would be placed under police surveillance. In the interview, Lilian states that her speciality was “escapes” from these houses often under the noses of the police. Lilian, who does not mention Miss Black, was taken by the police to a house in Birmingham on Christmas Day. Being a day of festivities, there was a delay of a few minutes before the Birmingham police arrived to place the house under surveillance during which time Lilian escaped. To her amusement, the police duly arrived and surrounded the house, not realising she had already gone.
On 4 May 1914, she was spotted walking down the street in Birkenhead by an eagle-eyed detective and arrested. She was taken to Armdale Gaol to await trial. Lilian refused food both at the police station and the gaol. A report was sent to the prison stating that any condition Lilian had was not due to force-feeding and the only difficulty experienced in the past was due to vomiting. It was suggested that she should be force fed. The Leeds medical officer described her as of ‘very poor physique’ and did not consider ‘her case a very desirable one for force feeding.’ If he was ordered to attempt force feeding, he was not willing to do so without a second medical opinion.When Lilian was taken to court, she was described as having ‘legs a little tremulous’.At her trial, she adopted the tactic of addressing the jury throughout including sentencing. On her return to prison later that day, her condition had deteriorated. On 12 May having again refused food she was released to return on 18th. In the meantime, Lilian was found guilty and sentenced to twelve months in prison. Lilian was taken by car to a house in Havergate which was heavily guarded by police. The day before she was due to return to prison, fifty veiled women arrived at the front door and were admitted one by one. When they left, they did so in one big group; the police had no means of knowing if Lilian was amongst them or not, nor were there sufficient men to follow every woman. Again she had successfully given them the slip.
According to her BBC interview, Lilian fled to the Lake District where she met D H Lawrence, who she described as having only one thing on his mind. Later she read Lady Chatterley’s Lover and said she could not remember anything special about it. The women were all technically freed on the outbreak of the First World War. Lilian served as an orderly during the war with the Scottish Women’s Hospital Unit. After the war, she worked in Norway and was a spokesperson for the Save the Children Fund. She continued to be interviewed on the suffrage campaign until she died in 1972.