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.
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