BOWEN,BOWER & BOWKER
Emma Bowen was arrested in March 1912 charged with breaking a window at Hudsons Bros Provision Merchants, located in New Bond Street, valued at £15. She was sentenced to four months in prison. According to the official records Bowen was an alias for Bower or Bodell. Despite the addition of a birth year, 1867, noted in another official document it has not been possible to trace Emma with any certainty.
Charlotte Bower was arrested on 27 November 1911. She was charged with throwing stones and breaking a lamp hanging outside the Clock Tower at the Houses of Parliament. When arrested Charlotte said: “I was afraid I should not be able to do so well.” At court she stated that male suffrage was an outrage on the women of the country who had campaigned for years for the vote. She was fined or alternatively sentenced to seven days although another official record states it was fourteen days. She elected to go to prison. An official record states that Charlotte was an alias; her actual name was Agnes V Bower. The year of birth given in the official records matches that of an Agnes Veronica Byrne born in 1869 in Manchester to Edward and Julia. Edward’s occupation is unclear from the census return but later Agnes stated he was a rough riding sergeant, a non-commissioned soldier who trained horses. Julia worked as a tailoress. Agnes had, in 1871, two brothers Ignatious and Alphonsus and an older sister, May. There are no further census returns recording either her parents, brothers or sister.
By 1881 Agnes was working, aged fourteen, as a nursemaid living in West Derby, Lancashire. Nothing more has been found until 1901 when Agnes married Thomas Edward Bower in Chorley, Lancashire. Thomas had been previously married, and his occupation was a merchant/chemist. Ten years later Agnes, living in Hendon, North London, filed for divorce on the grounds of Thomas’s adultery and desertion. The couple had one child; Julia Veronica born in January 1902. Perhaps Agnes’s marital difficulties propelled here towards the vote for women movement a few months later.
Agnes died in 1952.
Dorothy Agnes Bowker was born in 1886 in Bedford to Charles and Elizabeth who was from Canada, a country several of the family went on to live in. Charles, who died in 1892, is noted on one census return as a wine merchant but otherwise is recorded as living off his own means. Dorothy attended Bedford Kindergarten College followed by St Winifred’s School in Bangor, Wales where tuition was described as holistic: ‘to provide, upon a sound and accurate system, a religious and useful education for the daughters of clergymen and professional men of limited means, and the agricultural and commercial classes generally.’ An advertisement for the school stated that girls could be prepared for university entrance. Despite an open-minded approach to a girl’s education it was an establishment, like many of its time, strict on appropriate ladylike behaviour, something that young women often railed against.
For another image see https://www.thebritishacademy.ac.uk/blog/what-life-was-suffragette-organiser
Dorothy joined the WSPU in 1909. Initially she moved around the country establishing branches in Cornwall, Leicester and Loughborough. In Votes for Women, 2 July 1909, Dorothy stated that she had originally been against militant action but having heard Emmeline Pankhurst speak and read suffragette literature ‘the conversion already begun’ was finished. In late June 1909 Dorothy was arrested along with 114 others for offences arising from an attempt to meet with Herbert Asquith, the Prime Minister, at the House of Commons to present a petition. The majority were charged with obstructing the police, but 17 protesters faced other charges. One was Dorothy who was charged alongside Emmeline Pethick Lawrence with assaulting the police. Emmeline Pankhurst’s barrister, Robert Cecil, ran the defence that it was a lawful right to petition the Crown and preventing this from happening was therefore not a legal exercise of a policeman’s duties. The court held that while the lawful right of petition existed once it had been ascertained that Asquith was not available the protestors should have withdrawn and, in any event, any such petition should have been given to the Home Secretary. Emmeline Pankhurst and her co-defendant appealed unsuccessfully on the point of law arising from the court’s decision. All the other trials were delayed until the appeal had been heard. While the protestors who broke windows were imprisoned it is unclear what sentence, if any, Dorothy received.
Early in August 1909 Dorothy travelled to Hull to participate in a meeting to be held at the same time as a gathering of the Liberals. The women were jostled by the crowd and pushed by a deployment of mounted police; six women were arrested for disorderly conduct. In court, all of the women complained at the use of mounted police. Dorothy stated in court that she had during the melee called the police cowards for riding horses on the pavement. The magistrate lectured the women on their parlous behaviour but discharged them from the charges.
Weeks late Dorothy took part in a similar protest in Bradford. This time she lodged a complaint with the police claiming that she had been struck on the nose. In discussions with the Chief of Police Dorothy admitted that at the time of the incident she had been trying to knock off a constable’s hat unintentionally striking him in the face. The officer had lost his temper striking her. Dorothy provided the policeman’s number, but the Chief Constable insisted that number was incorrect as the officer in question had been on holiday.
In 1910 Dorothy was appointed the organiser for the Eastbourne, Hastings, Bexhill and St Leonards on Sea district, a post she held for two years resigning in February 1912. She was also arrested and released without charge that November, the day which became known as Black Friday. Like others Dorothy filed a report of her treatment at the hands of the police. A constable put his knee in the middle of her back forcing her shoulders back as far as they would go. He only released his grasp when someone knocked his helmet to the ground. Another officer then grabbed her by the neck dragging her along the road before forcibly pushing her into a lamppost. Dorothy was unable to take a note of his number as she was seeing stars.
Dorothy worked closely with Dorothy Pethick, sister of Emmeline Pethick Lawrence, Votes for Women names both as the organisers of the campaign in Leicester. The 1911 census was taken on 2 April 1911. Dorothy, who was lodging in a room at the top of a house in York Road Marylebone, decided, along with many other campaigners for the vote for women, not to complete the return. The enumerator for her address informed the registrar that Dorothy was absent from her home. The registrar duly visited the address and noted that he, as the enumerator before him had, found Dorothy absent. The registrar wrote that Dorothy returned after the census was taken in the earlier hours of 3 April and presumably to avoid any repercussions left with her luggage, leaving no forwarding address. On the form Dorothy wrote “No vote no census. I am dumb politically. Blind to the census. Deaf to enumerators. Being classed with criminals, lunatics and paupers I prefer to give no further particulars.”
Dorothy was arrested in 1912 and sentenced to four months imprisonment for breaking 13 windows at Swan and Edgar, a department store in the West End of London, alongside Edith Lane and Helen Creiggs to the value of £210. Due to the quantity of prisoners not all could be incarcerated in Holloway Prison so some including Dorothy were taken to Aylesbury Gaol. Dorothy was released on 27 June. When she was imprisoned in 1912 she went on hunger strike being awarded the Hunger Strike medal, the box is inscribed “Presented to Dorothy Bowker by the Women’s Social and Political 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.” The medal is part of the Lindseth Women Suffrage Collection housed at Cornell University.
On the outbreak of the First World War Dorothy joined the Women’s Land Army. In 1921 she emigrated to Canada where she had family, an emigration funded by the government established body, the Society for the Overseas Settlement of British Women whose aim was help women find jobs abroad who could not find them in England after the end of the war. In 1934 she returned settling in Lymington, Hampshire, where she served as a councillor for nineteen years. The International Suffrage News, 2 July 1943, published a letter from Dorothy in which she observes that many are concerned at the slow progress women were making in local politics. However, a local election had recently seen a woman garner 21 votes trouncing the two male candidates who had received five or less votes. Dorothy concludes ‘May this be an example to others to go and do likewise.’
Dorothy died in 1973.