Archdale to Armstrong
This group of women includes Annie Evelyn Armstrong one of the youngest suffragettes to be arrested whose detainment along with another young girl brought about a change in the WSPU rules regarding militant action; Louise Archibold, housewife and mother of two based in London and Lillian Armitage socialist supporter from childhood married to a union leader from Bradford, women poles apart but united by a common cause.
Helen Archdale was born in 1876. Her mother had been one of the women who had campaigned to be allowed to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh. Helen went to St Andrews University and after graduation commenced work as a journalist. She married and settled in India with her husband, who was in the army. They had three children. In 1908 Helen returned home and soon afterwards joined the WSPU.Helen was arrested in November 1910 for a breach of peace in connection with a visit to Dundee by Winston Churchill. One of her fellow arrestees was Adela Pankhurst. Found guilty she was imprisoned for ten days. Helen went on hunger strike and, for reasons which are unclear, was released four days later. In November 1911 she was charged with breaking five windows valued at £100. She was sentenced to two months imprisonment. A police officer testified that Helen struck a window at No 4 Grand Hotel buildings with ‘two blows in quick succession’. When arrested Helen retorted ‘all right’.Surveillance papers note that not only did Helen subscribe to the suffragette newspaper for herself she paid for a copy to be sent to her husband stationed in Madras. Based in Sheffield Helen was the local WSPU organiser, a position that Adela succeeded to when Helen became ill. Like many Helen refused to participate in the 1911 census. Helen campaigned for women’s rights for the rest of her life.
Louise Archibold was arrested 4 March 1912 and charged with malicious damage to five windows valued at seven pounds and ten shillings. She was sentenced to four months imprisonment, which highlights the inconsistency of sentencing as such a long sentence for a first offence and a relatively low value for the windows was not always the norm. Due to the sheer number of women arrested some, of whom Louise was one, were moved to prisons outside of London. Louise was sent to Birmingham along with twenty-three other women including Violet Aitken. [see earlier blog]
Louise, a married woman, appears on the Roll of Honour of Suffragette Prisoners 1905-1914 with the surname spelt Archibald as opposed to Archibold as recorded on the arrest record. Using either spelling, there is only one marriage that fits the criteria that of William Henry Archibold to Louise Victoria Adams on 14 August 1889 in Kentish Town, north London. The remainder of this entry has been written on the basis that the correct person has hopefully been identified.
On her marriage certificate, her father is named as Joseph Adams, a gentleman but no record of her birth or entries on the census return can be located so beyond this there is no background information. One clue is that the 1891 census return records William and Louise being visited by her sister Eva whose birthplace is recorded as France. The family are living in Richmond, and William’s occupation is a publisher. On 16 July 1890 Louise gave birth to their first child, Norah Enid. Ten years later the family are living in Holloway and Louise has given birth to a son, Andrew, born exactly one year later on Norah’s first birthday.Over a hundred miles away from her family Louise along with the other women went on hunger strike. A file note dated 23 June 1902 records that all twenty-four suffragette prisoners had been force-fed that evening. At this time, the authorities decided to undertake this course of action even if food had been refused for a relatively brief time. In this instance the women had refused food the previous morning, so the force-feeding occurred less than forty-eight hours later. All bar seven were fed either by nasal or oesophagus tube. Louise was one of those seven who accepted food by a feeding cup. This was not as pleasant as it might first appear. Laura Ainsworth described the process; placed in a chair and held down and her head forcibly held back, her mouth was forced open, four or five wardresses held her in the chair and milk was poured down her through a feeding cup’. It is not clear whether this treatment persisted until her release on 29 June 1912.
The 1911 census records the family living in Twickenham, Middlesex. Interestingly neither mother nor daughter is recorded which indicates that they both possibly participated in the suffrage protest against the 1911 census return. The family continued to live in Twickenham on her release. Predeceased by her husband Louise died on 4 March 1951 having retired to Worthing before the Second World War.
Helen Armes was arrested on in May 1914. She is stated to be a married woman born in 1857 and living in Croydon, but extensive searches do not reveal any matches. Helen’s case was sent to the Old Bailey for trial along with that of three other suffragettes. The charge was one of conspiracy to damage property. The police raided a flat in Maida Vale, London and found a list of public libraries together with bags of stones and tools. The start of the trial was delayed after an outburst from two of the women who flung a book towards the judge and chucked anything else that came to hand around the court. Mary Richardson was called as a witness for the defence, but she quickly turned giving evidence into an opportunity to state that her mouth had been cut during force-feeding. She was then removed. Helen and one other were cleared of the charges the other two who had been the ones shouting at the outset were sentenced to three months imprisonment. Sadly, it has not been possible to identify Helen further with any certainty.
Lilian Armitage was arrested on February 14th 1907. She was part of the cohort who attempted to enter the House of Commons. At her trial, she was found guilty and ordered to pay twenty shillings or serve fourteen days in prison. Her name is on the Roll of Honour of Suffragette Prisoners.
Lillian was born in Leeds in 1885. As a child she attended the Leeds Socialist Sunday school and as an adult became a teacher in the Bradford Socialist Sunday school. In 1906 she married Matthew Armitage, a trade unionist and gas meter inspector. This was Matthew’s second marriage and a much younger Lillian became stepmother to four children. When Lillian was arrested, she was the Secretary of the WSPU in Bradford and Matthew was President of the Gas Worker’s Union. The Leeds Mercury dated February 15th 1907 includes an interview with Matthew following Lillian’s arrest and imprisonment. Asked how he would manage ‘So I shall be a fortnight by myself, except for the four children. But I shall be able to manage very well. I am very handy in a house myself’.
Lillian fell pregnant not long after her release and gave birth to a son Stitt Wilson in December 1907. Several more children followed. Lillian remained involved in the suffrage movement. Matthew died in 1947.Thank you to Peter Armitage for this contribution: Lillian Armitage was my grandmother. Besides being Peter, I also carry my father's and grandfather's name, Matthew. Grandfather Matthew was President of the Gas Workers Union; I'm a Petroleum Engineer working in the oil and gas industry, following the tradition. Very proud of my socialist grandparents at a time when the poor had to fight for everything. Plus ca change, plus ca change pas.
Bessie Armstrong was arrested on 14 December 1906. She was part of a group of women and men who attempted to enter the House of Commons. When they were brought to court charged with obstruction several leading figures in the suffrage movement attended including Christabel Pankhurst and Charlotte Despard. Five women and one man were charged with disorderly conduct and causing an obstruction. Each was fined fourteen shillings or fourteen days imprisonment. None of them was released until after Christmas, and they were denied, visitors. On their release, they were greeted by members of the WSPU, and they returned to Clifford Inn for breakfast all announcing they would gladly return to prison in the cause of women’s suffrage.
Bessie is recorded in the newspaper reports as being married, but there is no trace of someone married, of that name in Manchester.
Evelyn Armstrong was arrested on 21 March 1907. Her name is given in the press as Annie Evelyn Armstrong of Blackpool. One report going as far as to describe her as “buxom”. At the time of her trial she was stated to be seventeen years old. After her case Mrs Pankhurst introduced a rule that no one under twenty-one years old should undertake any activity which could potentially lead to a prison sentence. Many Lancashire mill girls had come south to join a protest outside the House of Commons, and it is often stated that Annie Evelyn was part of this contingent. It is true that there was another young girl involved from the Lancashire mills, but it does not appear that Annie Evelyn was part of them.
The only Annie Evelyn Armstrong recorded was born in March 1890 in Reading which would make her seventeen at the time of her arrest. She was the daughter of James and Mary Jane Armstrong who by the 1891 census had moved to Salford, Lancashire. Both her parents and elder brother James were born in Ireland while her elder sister was born in Kent, so; clearly, the family had a peripatetic existence. At her trial the judge expressed his hope that her parents were there to support her and given her age remanded her for one week. When she was brought before the court again the magistrate stated that the court would pay her expenses home if she were to agree. Annie Evelyn accepted the terms and was taken by a mission woman to be reunited with her sister.
When Annie Evelyn returned home it was to the news that her father had died. Interviewed her mother was clear that she did not support the cause holding suffrage meetings responsible for turning her daughter’s head. If she chose to return to London it would be without her consent. Annie Evelyn emigrated to America in February 1911.
Arrested Suffragettes: More of the As
Kathleen Armstrong was arrested on 29 November 1911 and sentenced to seven days imprisonment having refused to pay the alternative fine. Her crime was breaking a window at the Home Office; the cost of the damage was ten shillings. In court, she stated firmly that she would do precisely the same again, protesting against the Men’s Suffrage Bill, which it was now clear would not extend the vote to women. Sadly, none of the reports provides sufficient information to learn any more about Kathleen.
Norah Armstrong was arrested on 24 November 1910 and 27 November 1911. Norah was arrested, firstly, along with ten other suffragettes for obstructing the police at the residence of the Member of Parliament, Lewis Harcourt who was vehemently opposed to women’s suffrage. Two of the women were also charged with damaging police whistles. Norah was sentenced to fourteen days or a 40 shilling fine. Like most she refused to pay the fine. Lauded in the Votes for Women newspaper, tickets were sold for 2 shillings and 6 pence for a celebration breakfast at the Criterion Restaurant on her and fellow inmates release.
Following her arrest, in November 1911 she was charged with throwing a stone at Messrs Pearson & Son along with Margaret Dickson. The two women stated that Norah cracked the pane with her throw, and Margaret broke it. The damage was said to amount to £2. Norah was sentenced to ten days imprisonment because she had committed a previous offence or a 20 shilling fine with 10 shillings damages. Equitably Margaret was fined in the same in damages but half the fine and three fewer days in prison.
Mrs Arncliffe Sennett was arrested on 21 March 1907 and 22 November 1911 according to the records compiled for the 1914 amnesty. However other official records note that she was arrested during November 1910 and charged with obstruction, but the charges were dismissed due to a lack of evidence.
Born Alice Maud Mary Sparagnapane, but known as Maud, in London in 1862 to Gaudente and Amelia she was one of three daughters. Her eldest sister died aged fourteen, the youngest sister, Florence, was also a campaigner for women’s suffrage. Her father was born in Switzerland and ran G Sparagnapane & Co retailers of ornamental confectionery and in time crackers. He died in 1877 and his wife continued to run the business.
Maud became an actress performing as Mary Kingsley. Aged only twenty-four she received rave reviews for her portrayal of Lady Macbeth “her rendition of the part must at once be classed as unqualified success”. She toured the country and Australia performing a wide variety of Shakespearean roles. On 9 July 1898 in London Maud married Henry Robert Sennett, one of the witnesses was Gerald du Maurier. The couple took over the running of her father’s business.
Maud joined the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. She engaged in the organisation of the march from Hyde Park to the Strand in February 1907 which became known as the Mud March her company supplied red and white rosettes for the marchers to wear. She became a member of the WSPU and was arrested on 21 March 1907 for being part of the attempt to enter the House of Commons. At court, she was bound over to keep the peace for six months and fined £5.
Just over a year later she resigned from the WSPU and joined the Women’s Freedom League. She was elected in time to the National Executive but took a dim view of the leadership, writing that “Billington Greig was great …. and kept a grip of the machine … Mrs Despard, …. a sort of flaming torch that toured London and the country”. After two years Maud resigned but continued to be a member of the Actress Franchise League whose membership she seemed to find more to her taste. She also supported the Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage helping to found one of its branches.
Maud often spoke about women’s suffrage. At a meeting in Eastbourne, she specifically questioned whether the Countess of Jersey, who had made it clear she would not attend had any idea how the poor lived. In reply, the Countess of Jersey wrote to the papers defined her anti-votes for women stance “We have already enough votes who are swayed by sentiment … Moreover, since there are more women than men in the United Kingdom, the result would be that the casting vote in government would rest with women, a climax which many of us would consider undesirable”.
Maud was arrested in November 1910 for her part in the window smashing campaign. She was charged with obstruction, but as with the majority, the charges were dropped. The telegram below was sent after her arrest.
In 1911 as part of the Actress Franchise League, she was part of a deputation who visited Downing Street. One newspaper article attributed various stances to the women stating Maud tried “cajolery”. Not long afterwards she was arrested for breaking a window at the Daily Mail offices in response to their failure to report suffrage activities. This time she was fined 40 shillings or seven days imprisonment in the Second Division. Maud responded by stating she would not pay and must, therefore, go to prison. As she was an employer people would, in consequence, lose their jobs, and she would leave the country in protest at paying taxes when she could not vote. She was admitted to Holloway Prison on 22 November 1911. A note on the files records that her fine was subsequently paid by Lord Northcliffe, the proprietor of the Daily Mail.
 DPP 1/23
 HO 144/1119/203651 DPP 1/23
In 191During the First World War, she campaigned for fair treatment of women and respect for soldiers’ wives, continuing her support for women’s suffrage. In 1918 Maud was the first women to be offered a parliamentary seat to contest, reluctantly she declined. In her later years, she became a supporter of anti-vivisection. She died aged seventy-four in Sussex.
Evelyn Arton was arrested in March 1912. The entry reads Evelyn B B Arton (Mrs), and it is believed that this is Eveleen Boyle Anna Arton nee McCarthy. Eveleen was born in Ireland in 1887 and married Frederick Richard Alston Arton in 1909. Eveleen and Frederick went into partnership together trading as film dealers and exporters. Her address is given as 24 Kensington Gate.
She was arrested for smashing five windows in the West End of London along with Mrs Alice Green, the damage amounting to £165. Found guilty Evelyn was sentenced to four months imprisonment. In April the files note that Evelyn had a ‘frail physique’ and was ‘of an unstable mental condition’. The files notes continue recording that Evelyn promised not to break windows or do other damage for eighteen months and her husband agreed to stand surety for her good behaviour for two years. It appears that Evelyn was then released. Her condition on release was described as fair.
It appears that her marriage was short-lived and certainly during October 1913 the partnership between them was dissolved. Two years later Eveleen went bankrupt. She continued to live in London, dying in Wandsworth in 1970.
Lily Asquith was arrested on 9 October 1909. Lily along with Violet Bryant, Ellen Pitfield and Dorothy Shellard smashed windows, to bring attention to the cause during a visit to Newcastle by Lloyd George, at the Liberal Club. The cost of the damage being said to be in excess of £3. All four pleaded guilty and were imprisoned for fourteen days with hard labour. Before their trial eleven women, all arrested for offences connected with Lloyd George’s visit wrote a letter to The Times avowing their intent to ‘carry on our protest in our prison cells’. By hunger striking they proposed four alternative solutions: early release; force-feeding; their death or the granting of the vote to women.
On their arrival at Newcastle gaol, all four broke windows in the reception. Violet and Lily were admitted to the cells, having promised not to break any more windows. Ellen and Dorothy refused to give such an undertaking and were kept in the reception cells with ‘extra blankets’. Two of them declared they would refuse food; two that they would only accept food from a feeding cup. Violet, it is noted, was six-foot-two weighing fourteen stone and in consequence the authorities did not have a skirt to fit her. She, therefore, remained in bed ‘while one was made’.
The four were joined by other suffragettes amongst them was Lady Constance Lytton who had thrown stones at the car of Sir Walter Runciman, a local Liberal politician. Reports on the condition of seven suffragette prisoners in Newcastle Gaol making for uncomfortable reading. A report dated 13 October notes that all the women ‘are quiet and orderly and given no trouble except refusing to take food’. A further report states that Lily ‘has much improved’ taking three pints of milk ‘by an officer feeding her’. A day later, Lily is noted as having taken from an officer ‘two pints of milk, 1 egg, and one pint of beef tea’. Her condition was described as ‘favourable’. Keir Hardie wrote to the Home Secretary asking if it was true that two pints of milk were force-fed to the women at one time. His letter was referred to the prison authorities accompanied by a note asking, ‘whether it was desirable to give so much’. The quantities continued with Lily being fed by a cup ‘two pints of egg and milk’, ‘a pint of beef tea’ and ‘custard’. Her condition is described as ‘doing well’.
Constance Lytton was released early as medical examination revealed she was suffering from a cardiac condition. The WSPU promptly exploited her release implying it was on the grounds of class passing a resolution calling for the release of a working woman, Mary Leigh. One of the prisoner governor’s reports notes that it had come to his attention that the women had surveyed the prison before their offences and once they had ascertained the levels of staffing had decided to ensure their arrested numbers were sufficiently high to cause the authorities as much trouble as possible. Intelligence indicated that the women intended to repeat their actions but on an even larger scale. Their theory being that larger numbers of prisoners would prevent the authorities from having enough staff to impose force-feeding.
On their release, they were admitted to a nursing home for rest. Interviewed by the press, Lily stated she had been force-fed by tube and by cup, tempting food had been placed in her sight, and she was regularly informed that the others had abandoned their hunger strike.
Although an approximate year of birth has been located several persons of the same name were born around the same time, and it is not possible to narrow it down any further.
Selgarde Atheling was arrested in Liverpool on 9 December 1909 and November 1911 in London. This is a name that perhaps not surprisingly does not appear anywhere. Researching newspapers for a report of the actions that led to the first arrest revealed that Selgarde Atheling is actually Lelgarde Acheling.
On 9 December 1909 Winston Churchill was in Liverpool, and Lelgarde travelled there with Violet Jones to protest. Lelegarde smashed a window at the Reform Club with a stone around which was wrapped a piece of paper with the words “deeds not words”. She was sentenced to five days hard labour. Her next arrest on 22 November 1911 was breaking three plate glass windows at the National Bank in the Strand. Again, she was acting with Violet Jones. The damage was said to amount to £30. When they were searched, more stones were found on them. They were committed for trial and released on bail provided by Mr Pethick Lawrence. At their trial in December they were found guilty and sentenced to two months imprisonment.
While this details her actions, it does not shed any further light on Lelegarde herself.
Arrested Suffragettes: a few more
The arrest record being alphabetically organised gives a fascinating snapshot of the movement for women’s votes. Even these few dispel the myth of London middle class centric. The women come from Scotland, the northeast, the north-west and London, they are socialists, mill workers, well educated, married, unmarried. In other words, from all walks of life and social classes. Amongst them, the list of “A”s is topped and tailed by a man.
Helen Atkinson was arrested on 28 November 1911 charged with obstructing the police during the breaking of windows. She was sentenced to a fine of 5 shillings or five days in prison.
In 1913 Keir Hardie, the first Labour member of Parliament gave a speech at Rusholme, Manchester supporting the right of women to take militant action to further their cause. Four suffragettes, including Helen, wrote to him thanking him for his support and urging members of his party to take militant action for then the government would have no choice but to listen.
Helen was baptised Helen Agnes and was born in Manchester in 1873 the daughter of John Bernard and Mallie Atkinson. She was the second eldest of six children. The youngest, Lucy, was born in 1885 and very soon afterwards, Mallie died. By the census in 1891 the family had moved south to Stoke Newington, north London. John describes himself as an author and journalist. Two years later he gave evidence in a trial at the Old Bailey and was stated to be the owner of a publication called the Journalist. By the 1901 census, Helen is earning her living as a shorthand typist.
Although she was only arrested once she was active in the movement throughout its activities staying in touch with fellow suffragettes. She died in 1955 on the way to visit her youngest sister in hospital.
Jane Atkinson was arrested in March 1907, November 1910 and November 1911. Jane was from Newcastle upon Tyne and was arrested the first time for attempting to gain entry to the House of Commons. Found guilty she was fined 20 shillings or fourteen days in prison. On the second occasion the charges were dismissed due to a lack of evidence.For her third arrest and charges of obstruction, she was sentenced to fourteen days imprisonment. She was a member of the Newcastle WSPU being part of their delegation to Herbert Samuel, a member of the Liberal cabinet. Although it did not change the government view, Herbert Samuel did himself, in time, support women’s suffrage. The records note Jane was a married woman from Newcastle upon Tyne, aged about fifty-eight. There the trail goes cold.
Mary Aves was arrested in March 1907 for her part in an attempt to enter the House of Commons alongside Jane Atkinson. The newspaper report states that she is from Chelmsford, the official records mention Edinburgh, but no other details have been located. She received the same sentence as Jane, a fine of 20 shillings or fourteen days in prison.
Barbara Gould Ayerton was arrested on 7 March 1912. This record should actually read Barbara Gould Ayerton. Barbara is well documented for example at http://spartacus-educational.com/Wgould.htm.
James Aylward was arrested in October 1908, one of fourteen men charged with either obstructing or assaulting the police. Events started at Caxton Hall where the WSPU were holding a meeting with entry by ticket only. A group of men gate crashed, the police doing nothing to stop them. Only after pleas from the platform did the men leave. After addressing the audience, the women left to walk to the House of Commons. Along the route, there was a considerable police presence, some on horseback. The numbers were swelled by members of the public who had either come to lend support or view the spectacle. One suffragette, Mrs Travers Symons, private secretary to Keir Hardie, succeeded in entering the House of Commons where MPs were debating the Children’s Bill. This success she had managed by subterfuge arranging to meet an MP and then giving him the slip. She was swiftly ejected from the building. On the corner of Westminster Bridge, a vast crowd, gathered kept back by mounted police officers. One newspaper suggests that the crowd around the bridge and up Whitehall was over twenty-five thousand. James was charged with obstruction and bound over to keep the peace for a year with a £5 fine.
Suffragettes and art
Of the three suffragettes named below two for entirely different reasons and actions had art at the centre of their actions.
E Andrews was arrested on 19 November 1910 and 27 November 1911. Before marriage, her name was Emily Jane Harding born in March 1850 in Clifton, Bristol to Thomas and Rose Harding. Emily was their first child. When she was born her father was an ironmonger’s clerk but by the time of the 1861 census, he had become a commercial traveller selling goods from town to town. Two sisters quickly followed Emily: Gertrude and Rose and three brothers: Thomas, George and Frederick. This was the last census return when the family were recorded all living together. Sometime between Frederick’s birth in 1864 and the census in 1871 Rosa, Gertrude and the youngest Frederick have moved from Clifton and are living in Holland Road, Kensington. Her father Thomas was hundreds of miles away presumably for his work.
Emily was a talented artist who initially specialised in miniatures. In 1877 she exhibited a miniature at the Royal Academy something that she did not repeat for another twenty years. Two years later in 1879 tragedy struck when Emily’s mother, Rosa, died. Only a few months later Emily, on 18 August 1879, married Edward William Andrews in Fulham, London. It was not common to marry so soon after a mother’s death and at best it would have been a rather gloomy affair. On the marriage certificate both the bride and groom give their occupations as artists. Edward gives his birth on census returns as 1840 and his place of birth as Kidderminster although no such record can be found. Edward in census returns describes himself as a portrait artist, and several are recorded in the National Collection.
The couple settled in Hampstead and interestingly although Edward’s occupation is recorded on the 1881 census return Emily’s is left blank. By the mid-1880s Emily has started illustrating books. Initially she focused on illustrating children books. One of the first was Happy Hours published circa 1887, a typical Victoria children’s book with a moral message and beautiful illustrations. Sometimes she collaborated with Thomas Heath Robinson, the brother of William Heath Robinson.
Interestingly she always used her maiden name for work. By the 1891 census the couple had moved to another property in Hampstead. Their finances do not seem to have been very stable because they no longer had a live-in servant. Although Emily’s occupation is recorded it is as a ditto for her husbands of portrait artist.
In 1896 Emily published a book which she had both translated from French and illustrated: “The Fairy Tales of the Slav Peasants and Herdsman.” A year later she exhibited at the Royal Academy for the first time in twenty years and again two years later. By 1901 the couple had moved again. This time their occupations are the same artist (painter). In 1907 the Artists’ Suffrage League was formed with the initial intention of providing banners and posters for a march from Hyde Park to Exeter Hall on the north side of the Strand on February 7th 1907 organised by the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. The weather was so atrocious that it became known as the Mud March.
The poster above was designed by Emily, and in the VADS collection a design for Christmas card survives along with the card that accompanied it when she sent it to the chair of the society for her consideration.
In November 1910 the suffragettes attempted to enter the House of Commons with over hundred being arrested for assault, disturbance or wilful damage. Appearing in court the next day many of the women arrived with bags ready to go to prison. To the disappointment of some the Home Secretary offered on evidence, and all the women were discharged. The 1911 census records the couple living apart. Edward is living in West Hampstead in an artist’s studio, and Emily is lodging in Bayswater. On 27 November of the same year Emily was arrested for her part in the window smashing campaign.
Edward died on 30 January 1915 without leaving a will. His assets were a little over one hundred pounds. On the electoral register for 1918 Emily is living in Camden with fellow artists, a holder of the vote at last. In August 1935 by now an elderly lady she sailed for Australia settling with one of her sisters who had emigrated many years before. She died in Australia in 1940.
Jessie Anscott arrested on 21 March 1907 as part of the deputation who attempted to enter the House of Commons. The official records also note her surname as Arscott. She was fined twenty shillings or fourteen days imprisonment.
Gertrude Mary Ansell was arrested on 14 October 1908, 2 August 1913 and in May 1914. Gertrude was born on 2 June 1861 the daughter of George and Sarah who at the time were living in Vernon Place, Bloomsbury, London. George was employed as a chemist at the Royal Mint and was responsible for the production of a sovereign coin known today as the Ansell Sovereign. Alongside this George had an interest in preventing colliery explosions due to the presence of firedamp, a lethal mixture of combustible gases. He patented an index which detected the level of gas to operate alongside safety lamps which were not totally dependable.
The 1881 census records Sarah, Gertrude and her three brothers living in Holloway, north London. All of the children, including Augustus who is only fifteen are working. Gertrude is a telephone clerk. The following year George died leaving a very modest amount of money. Ten years later Gertrude staying with her aunt is recorded as having no occupation. Elizabeth Crawford writes in her book the Women’s Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928 that by 1908 Gertrude was running a typing bureau and presumably supporting herself financially.
In due course Gertrude joined the Women’s Social and Political Union and in February 1907 joined the march from Hyde Park to the Strand, the Mud March, for which the Artist’s Suffrage League including Emily Harding Andrews, prepared banners and posters. Her first arrest was on 14 October 1908 for her part in the attempt to enter the House of Commons. Leaving from Caxton Hall the women strode two abreast down streets lined with policeman towards Parliament. At their head was Miss Wallace Dunlop and Gertrude. Many had congregated to watch the women marching, some intent on trouble picked fights with the police, but the women continued until the police brought them to halt informing them, they had to wait until eight o'clock. When the appointed time came the women tried to push, but the police pushed back tossing Gertrude to one side. Matters swiftly turned ugly and Gertrude was arrested for, riotous behaviour. Refusing to pay the fine that was imposed on her in court Gertrude was imprisoned in Holloway.
She and other suffragettes who were released on 21 November 1908 were met by Mrs Pethick Lawrence and serenaded by a band playing the Marseillaise. They all returned to the WSPU’s headquarters for a celebratory breakfast. Within days Gertrude had resumed her activities. Addressing a meeting in Camden dressed in her prison uniform she was pelted with eggs and fireworks were let off in the hall drowning out her words. Women refused to pay their taxes on the principle that if they could not vote why they should pay tax. Gertrude had a gold watch seized by the bailiffs and auctioned off to pay her tax debt. As was often the case it was bought by a supporter and immediately returned to her.
Gertrude was active in arenas outside of women’s suffrage. She was a member of the Fabian Women’s Society, an offshoot of the Fabian Society founded to promote debate on social progression and social justice and several animal charities. She had undertaken to one of these animal charities that she would not take part in any militant suffrage activities, but the defeat of two bills in the House of Commons both relating to animals made her think again. She was sentenced at the end of July 1913 to one month’s imprisonment for breaking a window at the Home Office. She went on hunger strike and was freed under the Cat and Mouse Act on 6 August. When your health had sufficiently recovered you were detained again to complete your sentence. Each time Gertrude was detained she went on hunger strike, and she was in and out of prison for the rest of 1913 and into 1914.
Her last arrest in respect of this prison sentence being in January 1914 when she was detained at a WSPU meeting. Following her release, she made it known that a woman in an adjacent cell had been groaning in pain in consequence of force feeding. Her statement to this effect was taken by a deputation of women to demand from the Bishop of London what steps the church intended to take in this regard. In response the Bishop wrote to the prison chaplain and undertook to visit himself. When he did so he was convinced that the woman was not force fed something which the woman herself apparently denied. This incident received extensive press coverage, and Gertrude’s reputation was brought into doubt as the WSPU’s claims regarding force feeding.
After Mary Ann Aldham, discussed in an earlier blog, attacked a picture at the Royal Academy security was stepped up. Despite this only ten days later Gertrude attacked with an axe a portrait of the Duke of Wellington by Sir Hubert von Herkomer. She was sentenced to six months imprisonment. Again, she went on hunger strike and was reportedly force fed two hundred and thirty-six times before being released when the amnesty came into force following the outbreak of war in August 1914.
Gertrude died in 1932.
The next two names on the list are both well-known and researched:
Mary S Allen was arrested on 25 February 1909, 12 July 1909 both in London and 13 November 1909 in Bristol and Louisa Garrett Anderson arrested on 5 March 1912. Nina Boyd has written a biography The Many Lives of Mary Sophia Allen published in 2013. Both have detailed and fascinating entries on Wikipedia for example.
The next name on the list sheds light on the relationships between the campaigners and the threads that continued to entwine them for the rest of their lives.
Constance Andrews was arrested on 7 June 1913 and 31 March 1914. The daughter of Oliver, an architect and surveyor and Mary Andrews Constance was born in 1864 in Stowmarket, Suffolk; her full name was Emily Constance. The local papers record her musical prowess as a teenager often giving recitals either on her own or with one of her sisters. Her father died in 1885, and a few years later in 1891 Constance is recorded on the census return living in Gloucester working as a schoolteacher probably of music. By 1894 Constance had moved back to Stowmarket and was taking in her own music pupils as well as giving piano recitals. She was by this point an Associate of the London College of Music. Two years later she was instrumental in the setting up of the Ladies Section of the Stowmarket Cycling Club being appointed its first captain. Unusually for the time Constance and two other female members along with a William Bury were in partnership in a building firm based in Stowmarket. By 1901 the partnership had been dissolved, and Constance had moved to Ipswich continuing to teach music.
In 1907 Constance participated in the campaign for women’s suffrage founding the Ipswich branch of the Women’s Freedom League in 1909. An endeavour in which she was joined by her sister, Lilla. In 1911 Constance, like many women organised an event in Ipswich to ensure they were not at home for the taking of the census. Among those present were her sister and Isobel Tippett, the mother of Michael Tippett, the composer. A few weeks later she appeared before the Magistrates Court in Woodbridge for her failure to have a dog licence. Refusing to pay the fine she was imprisoned in Ipswich Gaol for a week. On her release she was collected from the prison gates by several suffragists including Charlotte Despard.
Isobel Tippett was a cousin of Charlotte Despard which possibly explains Charlotte’s presence in Ipswich on Constance’s release and her accompanying Constance and others touring Suffolk during the summer of 1912 in a caravan with the aim of spreading their message across the rural and coastal villages. As was the case in other parts of the country they were frequently heckled but continued despite such lukewarm receptions.
During the early months of 1913 she addressed various meetings of the Women’s Freedom League in the North East, the Sunderland Daily Echo reporting that perhaps unusually she had no difficulty in getting her message across and was warmly treated by all. Although in May she successfully defied the ban of public speaking in Hyde Park on the subject of votes for women she was not so lucky a month later when she was charged with obstructing the police when trying to speak outside St James’s Palace. When the matter came to court all three of the women charged requested time to call witnesses which was denied. They were ordered to pay 20 shillings or go to prison for fourteen days. Charlotte Despard who attended the hearing shouted, “There is no justice for women in England”. Refusing to pay the fine Constance was imprisoned. According to the arrest record Constance was arrested again on 31 March 1914, but the reason has not been found.
Constance was a member of the Church of the New Age in Manchester. Similar in its views to Theosophy believing in tolerance and service to humanity members were often vegetarians as were the followers of Theosophy. Members of the Church were Countess Markievicz and Esther Roper. Constance held a licence to perform marriages and supported clergyman in services for women of the church. She believed in equality of men and women regardless of religion or sex and their equal right to be ministers.
Constance died in 1947, Sale, Cheshire. The executor of her will was Ada Hines who founded the Manchester branch of the Women’s Freedom League.
For anybody interested in the suffrage movement in Suffolk, Ipswich in particular Joy Bounds has written a book called a Song of Their Own. http://www.joybounds.co.uk
Isabella Alexander was arrested on 22 June 1914. Isabella chained herself to the railings in front of the statue of the Duke of Wellington outside the Royal Exchange in London. When she was brought before the court, she is reported to have become violent and abusive. In consequence she was remanded in custody pending a medical assessment. When she was brought before the court again, she was ordered to pay £10 and be bound over to keep the peace for three months. Isabella’s response was to the point “You have not risen to the occasion, and we must put you in the category of white slavers. We women will not be bound over”. As she refused to pay the fine or give any undertaking in respect of her conduct, she was imprisoned for seven days.
Isabella gave her age as forty-two and her residence as Campden Hill, Notting Hill. Sadly, it has not been possible to identify her from this information.
Doreen Allen was arrested twice in 12 March 1912 for taking part in the demonstrations that involved window smashing. One charge was for breaking windows in the Strand. Her case sheds light on the leaders of the WSPU.Frederick Lawrence, later Pethick Lawrence, was an Eton educated barrister who worked alongside Charles Booth documenting the conditions of the poor and proffered free legal advice. Having converted to socialism, he married Emmeline Pethick, a social worker. From there on in they each used the surname Pethick Lawrence. Frederick founded The Echo, a left-wing newspaper, commissioning articles from journalists such as Henry Brailsford. Though Frederick’s friendship with James Keir Hardie he and his wife met Emmeline Pankhurst. Emmeline joined the WSPU, and Frederick often represented the suffragettes in court. The couple founded the WSPU newspaper, Votes for Women, and put their home at the disposal of the WSPU.The authorities arrested all the leaders of the WSPU in response to the window breaking campaign. Christabel fled to France. Emmeline and Frederick were tried, found guilty and imprisoned for nine months. Both were force-fed. Following their release, the couple objected to the planned WSPU escalation of their activities, especially a proposed arson campaign. Christabel responded by expelling them from the WSPU. Despite their shocking treatment, the couple continued to publish Votes for Women and campaign for women’s suffrage. They also faced enormous legal costs associated with their trial and the payment of £5000 compensation for the windows broken.
Amongst the files is one which includes much of the evidence gathered for the trial. The first document is a list of exhibits. The authorities gathered together all manner of documents and objects from the lease to rent Clement’s Inn, the home of the Pethick-Lawrences, the contract to print Votes for Women, hammers, extracts from Votes to Women, a bag of stones, numerous statements from the police to financial records; one hundred and seventy one items in total. Typed transcripts of speeches given by Emmeline or Christabel Pankhurst and the Pethick-Lawrences, gathered by plainclothes police officers, are amongst the evidence bundles. Sections are, heavily underlined, by the authorities, which were felt to demonstrate the leaders inciting of the women to militant action: ‘When we have asked for bread, they have given us a stone. My friends, stones come home to roost like chickens. They have sown wind and to-day they are reaping a whirlwind’.Alternatively, Christabel ‘we shall do our bit, even if it is burning down a palace…’ While she avows that it would not matter if the prison term were seven years when faced with the reality of her actions, she fled. In speeches given at the Albert Hall both Frederick and Emmeline called for militant action but couched it in terms of hundreds of women marching there is no mention of any violent action; at worst criminal damage was mooted. Although the authorities were, in theory, aware sufficiently of the WSPU’s plans, it is interesting that they decided to allow the damage to take place rather than preventing it.One of the women they were charged with inciting was Doreen. On the exhibit list was a hammer found in her possession. Doreen was imprisoned for four months and force-fed. Doreen was one of the suffragettes imprisoned with Mary Aldham, and she stitched the same handkerchief. During her imprisonment some of the women performed a scene from the Merchant of Venice, Doreen played Narissa. Following her release, Doreen continued her political activities. Late in 1913, Emmeline Pankhurst was arrested on the Majestic as she returned from America. A group of suffragettes including Doreen travelled to Plymouth to meet Emmeline only to see her arrested under the Cat and Mouse Act and taken to Exeter Gaol. Emmeline went on hunger strike and was rereleased. She spent the night following her release at the Great Western Hotel along with a close group of supporters and her nurse. Outside the press and two plainclothes police officers sent from London waited. Doreen informed those waiting that Emmeline would shortly leave and travel to London where Emmeline was to take part in a meeting.
There is no record of a Doreen Allen being born and of an age to take part in the suffragette campaign. Doreen died in 1963.
Janie Allan was first arrested and tried in November 1911. Found guilty she was sentenced to a fine or imprisonment for seven days. It is not known which option Janie took. This arrest contradicts the amnesty record which only records her arrest the following March for her part in the window smashing campaign. Janie was charged with breaking six windows at six different premises. She was found guilty of the first four charges but acquitted of the final two. The value of the windows for which she was found guilty amounted to £85. Janie was sentenced to four months imprisonment. Born in 1868 in Scotland Janie was the daughter of a wealthy shipping owner who despite his riches held strong socialist principles. Her life and campaigns are well documented elsewhere on the internet, and therefore this entry focuses on the mostly unexplored official documents.One file describes Janie as ‘reputed to be of great wealth’, ‘a very active and militant Suffragette and the principal agitator and Supporter of the cause in Scotland’. Research revealed that she donated a minimum £100 per month; the total donations between August 1909 and February 1914 were stated to be £1025 to which a pencil entry has been added making the total £2166, an equivalent today of over £200,000. It was proposed that Janie should be arrested during one of her visits south from Scotland when she usually stayed at the Windsor Hotel, noting ‘It is most desirable from every point of view to sue this lady’.During Janie’s time in prison, she went on hunger strike barricading herself into her cell. It apparently required the use of a crowbar to free her for force-feeding. She was another one of the women who signed the suffragette handkerchief.
Janie remained active throughout the suffragette campaign and following its cessation on the onset of World War 1 she contributed to the establishment of medical facilities. She never married and died in 1968.
Helen Allen was arrested on 12 February 1908 for her participation in the attempt to gain entry to the House of Commons. A member of the WSPU she gave the headquarters address as her own. At her trial, she was sentenced to six weeks in prison. One of her fellow prisoners was Emmeline Pankhurst. The women were due for release on the 20th of the month. A, surprising, memo explains that on the 19th an important suffragette meeting was to be held at the Albert Hall. It was decided that ‘it would be suitable act of Grace’ to release the women a day early to permit them to attend.
Margaret (Greta) Allen was arrested in November 1910 as part of the contingent who marched on the House of Commons now known as Black Friday. She was the daughter of Thomas Taylor Allen and Margaret nee Dowden of Cork, Ireland. Known as Greta, she lived in Lewes, Sussex. A trained nurse she engaged in public health lecturing local authorities on their responsibilities. In 1908 her book Practical Hints for Health Visitors with an emphasis on child welfare was published.The specific charge was wilful at No 10 and 11 Downing Street. Greta was sentenced to one month imprisonment. The Kent and Sussex Courier dated 25 November 1910 contains an announcement that Greta had been unable to provide the evening lecture on Home Nursing that week which is obviously explained by presence at the rally and subsequent arrest. As mentioned in an earlier blog, an investigation was launched into the treatment of the women. Greta provided a statement. Pushed away from the Houses of Parliament by the police towards Downing Street, she spied an elderly woman supported by a friend standing by an alcove by the steps in Whitehall. Believing the woman might require medical assistance Greta approached noting that the lady appeared faint. To protect her Greta helped her into the alcove turning her own back to the street to shield her. A police officer ordered Greta to move on who explained why she was standing there. The policeman was of the view that the woman should be put in a taxi. Greta observed the woman ‘was literally flung into the cab’ falling on the floor into a heap. Horrified Greta leapt into the taxi accompanying the lady to Caxton Hall where there was doctor. Greta notes that the woman’s breast ‘was squeezed and hurt’ by ‘a strong hand holding the breast’. In terms of the police she felt that those in B division were kind, but those from divisions S and R were rough.Several years later Greta addressing a medical conference said that she rarely drank, but her imprisonment made her yearn for alcohol, and on her release, she drank green Chartreuse. Although Greta lived in Lewes, she was the organiser of the Brighton and Hove WSPU as there had been considerable local debate on the establishment of a group supporting the call for women’s right to vote. The Lewes Women’s Suffrage Society was not founded until 1910 and only went so far in its resolution to support the right of women homeowners to vote and to further this aim using non-violent methods. Greta attended the Mayor’s Ball in Lewes which was after all her hometown. The attire was fancy dress, and Greta attended dressed in a convict’s outfit entitled Suffragette: Second Division, a reference to the suffragette’s categorisation in prison.
Greta, in time, instigated the founding of a branch of the WSPU in Lewes although the suffrage movement in the town remained divided. In 1913 Lewes became the focus when Beatrice Sanders was imprisoned there. Sentenced as a Third Division prisoner whereas suffragettes were generally classed as Second Division meaning her time would be even harsher. She went on hunger strike, and Greta held an open-air meeting to drum up support for Beatrice. Heckled, she eventually had to be led to safety by the police. Suffragettes then gathered at the prison walls singing suffragette songs and maintaining a vigil. Beatrice was released under the Cat and Mouse Act, and it was Greta who arrived to collect her arranging for her admittance to a Lewes nursing home. Greta appears to have resigned from her post before the outbreak of World War 1 and what happened to her after that is not known.
Click here tIt is often the case that due to the commonality of someone’s name and in the absence of any clues in the newspaper reports no further information can be traced. Whenever this is the case their name and actions are recorded not only does this allow any new information to be added in the future, it ensures that each participant’s part is recorded for posterity and allows for future research.
Sophie Albert was arrested on November 27th, 1911. The name given to the authorities appears to have been an alias as the records also record that her name was Margaret Bennett. Suffragettes often used pseudonyms to disguise their identity from family or employers. The arrest related to the activities of the suffragettes on November 22nd 1911, following the adoption by the WSPU of window breaking as a critical plank of protest. Sophie was a member of the WSPU, and like other members she gave her address as Clement’s Inn the headquarters of the WSPU and home of the Pethick Lawrences. Again, this was often a tactic used to protect their identity. She was sentenced to five days imprisonment or a 5 shilling fine for obstruction. The fine was paid on November 30th.
Ann Alice Alder was arrested on February 12th 1908 along with Violet Addis, mentioned in the first blog, following an attack on the House of Commons. Ann, according to the newspaper report, was thirty years old, married and had travelled south from Honley, Yorkshire to attend the demonstration. Although both the newspaper reports and the suffragette record state her surname is Alder it is, in fact, Older.
Born Ann Alice Sykes on August 12th 1876, Slaithwaite, Yorkshire, she was the daughter of Joseph, a shoemaker and Rebecca. The 1891 census return records Ann, aged thirteen, working as a cotton piecer in the local mill. Ann married Charles William Older on April 14th 1900, while she has no recorded occupation, Charles was a stoker. After their marriage they settled in Honley. They had one daughter, Murial, born in 1915.
Ann was a member of the Huddersfield WSPU alongside her aunts Ellen Beever and Annie Sykes who had first demonstrated in London in 1907. Ann was sentenced to six weeks in prison. Like many on the record this was her only offence.
Ann died on February 16th 1958; Charles having died two years earlier.
Grace Alderman was arrested at the same demonstration on February 12th, 1908. Like Ann Grace had travelled south this time from Preston. Grace was born in 1885, Crewe, the daughter of a solicitor. She was sentenced to six weeks imprisonment. Later she moved south to Witham in Essex. She died during December 1968.
Mary Ann Mitchell Aldham was arrested on at least eight occasions including 22 November 1911, 7 March 1912, 19 March 1912, 17 November 1913 and 14 May 1914, dates which are recorded in the amnesty records. She was, however, first arrested in 1908 in connection with a meeting outside the Houses of Parliament in October. The reason for this apparent discrepancy is that Mary sometimes used the Wood, her maiden name, or the records misspelt her name as Oldham. When the dates for Oldham are added, 14 October 1908 and 19 and 24 October 1910, the arrests total eight.
Mary was a dogged, determined and brave woman. Born in 1858 she was nearly fifty years old when she was first arrested. In 1883 Mary married Arthur Robert Aldham, a commercial clerk. Mary and Robert had two daughters Mary and Gertrude. By the time of the 1901 census, the family were living at 22 Coom’s Hill, Greenwich. Mary Ann’s life took a tragic turn when Arthur died in 1905 and Gertrude four years later in 1909.
In 1908, Mary’s trial, along with several others, was adjourned to allow her to obtain legal representation. At the delayed hearing, Mary was found guilty and given the choice of being bound over to keep the peace along with a fine or be sent to prison for one month, which she elected to do.
The offence in October 1910 was, along with seven others, breaking windows valued at £5 at the house of John Burns, the member of Parliament for Battersea. Burns frequently locked horns with the leader of the WFL, Charlotte Despard who strongly disagreed with his view that women whose children failed to thrive was due to their feckless mothering rather than poverty. For this offence, Mary was fined £5 or one month in prison. She chose to go to prison. Mary also participated in Black Friday on 18 November 1910 when approximately three hundred women marched to the Houses of Parliament. Following the general election in 1910, the Liberals led by Herbert Asquith only had a majority in the House of Commons if they were supported by the Labour party which led Henry Brailsford to lead the foundation of a Conciliation Committee for women’s’ suffrage. The Committee which consisted of thirty-six members of Parliament from all parties drafted a bill, the Conciliation Bill, which would have given about a million women the vote. It was seen by many as a step in the right direction, and Emmeline Pankhurst, on behalf of the WSPU, agreed to cease all militant activities while the bill was debated. However, while the bill received the backing of the House of Commons, Asquith made it clear it was a piece of proposed legislation which he intended to shelve. The demonstration now known as Black Friday was a response to Asquith’s declaration.
The women were met by flanks of police officers who resisted their attempts to access the building for six hours. Many of the women complained of violence, some of sexual assault. One hundred and nineteen were arrested, only to be released without charge. The portrayal of the events in the newspapers was mostly pro the police praising them for their restraint in dealing with women intent on attacking them. Many called for a public enquiry which Winston Churchill, Home Secretary, refused.
Nonetheless amongst the files transcribed by http://findmypast.co.uk is one including statements from police, the women and a few members of the public. Mary wrote ‘I was thrown about a good deal by the police for a long time … My arms were wrench back and twisted so that I had to have help to dress the next morning’. Part of this file is made up of the Brailsford report prepared by Henry Brailsford and Jessie Murray in response to the refusal to hold a public enquiry. A powerful advocate of women’s suffrage was Robert Cecil, a Conservative member of Parliament, one of only a few of that party who supported the vote for women. Amongst the papers in the file is a damning critique of why his calls for an enquiry are misguided and potentially damaging to the democratic process.
Arguably Black Friday marked a change in the campaign for women’s votes. Many women disavowed militant tactics, and it was the last demonstration of that type the WSPU undertook as they move towards activities such as window breaking which enabled the women to flee more easily.
In this vein Mary was next arrested on November 22nd 1911 for window breaking at Charing Cross Post Office, one of two hundred and twenty- three. She was the first defendant in the dock at the trial attended by Christabel and Sylvia Pankhurst. Refusing to pay the imposed fine, she was imprisoned for fourteen days. She was now fifty-three years old.
Undeterred Mary continued to campaign. She was arrested during March 1912 for breaking a window to the value of £20 and was imprisoned for six months in Holloway. Her release date was 18 September 1912. Mary went on hunger strike. Amongst the papers is a list of names of woman whom it was doubtful were medically fit to be force-fed; another of those where it was unclear whether they were sufficiently strong, Mary features on this list. Minutes record that an order was issued for the immediate release of any prisoners subjected to force-feeding without further discussion if their health necessitated; Mary was one of five released following a medical assessment which noted ‘Elderly woman presenting slight indication of cardiac degeneration. Resists cup feeding and it would not be safe to feed by tube; shows indication of impaired nutrition quickened pulse, coated tongue which are likely to become more marked. A report written a few days later highlights the number of prisoners involved in the refusal of food, fifty-seven. Of those twenty-nine were being fed forcibly by tube and fifteen by a cup or spoon. Thirteen had been on hunger strike for one day, so no measures had been taken. A further sixteen had been released due to a deterioration in their health, Mary being amongst them. These numbers were over four prisons: Holloway; Aylesbury; Birmingham and Brixton. James Agg-Gardner, member for Parliament, raised a question concerning prison visits. These the authorities responded would be withdrawn if the medical practitioner felt that the prisoner was medically unfit to receive a visit, and it would be detrimental to their health.
In 1912 Helen Gordon, a suffragette who had been subjected to force-feeding, wrote a pamphlet describing her experiences. It is a graphic and frank account. Placed in solitary confinement for refusing food she was taken to the hospital. Forced on to a bed she was restrained by four wardresses, her head held by a doctor, a gag forced ‘roughly between my teeth…A mixture of brown bread, milk, bovril, or mince, was half poured or ladled out of a basin down my throat.’ If she did not swallow her nose was held until she did. This was the cup and spoon method. The alternatives were either a nasal tube or an oesophageal tube. The latter Helen described as ‘The worst torture of any kind’. The authorities unaware of the pamphlet hastily obtained a copy. On this occasion, the records note Mary was released without being force-fed on 23 June.
During her imprisonment, she and her fellow inmates signed a handkerchief, a poignant memento. https://sussexpast.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Priest-House-suffragette-handkerchief.pdf