Boadicea and Lillie Boileau
The next entry is for Boadicea which is an apt name given on arrest designed no doubt to infuriate the police. The person’s real name is Lilian Dove Willcox who it may be recalled was one of two released prisoners feted at a reception at Violet Bland’s house in Bristol. Lilian will be written about when her other entries are reached.
The next name is Lillie Boileau who was arrested twice. Lillie Maud Boileau was born circa 1870 in Purayh, India to Neil and 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 Asquith’s house: Mrs Cranston, Charlotte Despard, Mrs Cobden Sanderson and Mrs Hicks. A member of the Women’s Freedom League the women had been taking it in turns to man the picket usually in pairs. Lilie tried to give 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 attempted 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 make a claim against 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 August 26th 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 and in not that different a stance from the Women’s Freedom League not agree with the attack tactics of the WSPU, Timothy supported Sinn Fein but not any associated violence. 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 actually examined the document. The women had been charged with obstructing the police in their duty whilst 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 the women were found guilty being fined 40 shillings or 7 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.
Whilst 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 and therefore 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 w[i]as 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 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 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 being charged with obstruction. Three more arrests followed one of them being 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 the Union of Ethical Studies and campaign for a variety of causes. She died in 1930.
[i] The Ethical Movement of Britain
Leave a Reply.