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.
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
Annie Ainsworth was arrested on 25 February 1909 [this arrest is recorded incorrectly as 1908] and 22 November 1911, alongside Violet Aitken [see below]. The first arrest followed another attempt by the WSPU to enter the House of Commons. Following a meeting, at Caxton Hall a deputation led by Mrs Pethwick Lawrence, the secretary of the WSPU, set off to the House of Commons. The police stood firm before the door; the women were shoved forwards towards them by the crowd that had gathered to watch and demanded in vain to be admitted. The police removed them from the area one by one, but many endeavoured to return to the doorway being seen off by a large number of police congregated the other side of the doors. Some were arrested, others attempted to rally again or make speeches. Twenty-seven women and one man were arrested among them Annie who was recorded as being twenty-eight years old; she gave her address as 4 Clement’s Inn, the headquarters of the WSPU. When the matter came to court Annie refused to pay the £10 fine and was imprisoned for one month along with the other twenty-six women. Mrs Pethwick Lawrence lobbied the authorities for the right of the suffragette prisoners to exercise together and converse while so doing assuring them that if this concession was granted they would not breach the rule outside of the exercise period and would not cause any other trouble. A report includes a robust response: ‘I think this request is quite inadmissible…they want to dictate their own terms as to how they are to serve their self-imposed sentences’. The anonymous author continued to explain how, while Mrs Pankhurst and her daughter, had previously been allowed to exercise together this was only due to the former’s ill health and such a concession would not be applied. The prisoners were 2nd Division and therefore not entitled to such privileges. Her second arrest in November 1911 was for breaking windows with Kathleen Broadhurst at the West Strand telegraph office. They were fined 15 shillings or one week’s imprisonment. The campaign, this episode was part of, is discussed in more detail below.
At the Great March held on 8 June, 1910 Annie was in charge of leaflet distribution along the route and her involvement continued over the years with financial donations, leading the organisation of the Suffragette summer party in 1913 or leading a group of mourners at Emily Davison’s funeral.
Laura Ainsworth was arrested in Birmingham on 18 September and 26 November 1909. Much has been written about Laura, for example at https://spartacus-educational.com/WainsworthL.htm. The focus of this blog is those who have been forgotten as the years have passed and therefore no further research has been undertaken.
Violet Aitken [full name Marion Violet Aitken] was arrested on 22 November 1911, 5 March 1912 and 19 March 1912. Born in 1886 in Bedford she was the daughter of William and Eleanor Aitken. Her grandfather, Robert Aitken, printed the first English Bible in America in 1782. William, an evangelist, first worked with William Pennefather, the founder of the Mildmay Conferences and the deaconess movement where women lived together to be trained to work where they were most needed supporting hospitals, education or poor relief. The Mildmay continues today as an Aids and HIV charity. William was appointed to Christ Church, Liverpool but when his wife’s health failed, he moved his family to the fresh air of Derbyshire, and he travelled the length and breadth of the country preaching. He made two preaching tours to America, the last in 1896. In 1900 he was appointed Canon at Norwich Cathedral in 1900.
A member of the WSPU Laura was one of two hundred and twenty-three arrested including three men in Whitehall and Parliament Square on 22 November 1911. The WSPU had organised a demonstration, and in response the police were out in force. Some women attempted to force their way into the House of Commons while others began smashing windows at the Treasury and Scottish Education Office moving along Whitehall throwing stones at windows as they went. The stones were in contained small drawstring bags, and they used the strings as a form of sling to give the stone momentum. Windows were smashed in the Strand and at Somerset House. The protest continued after their arrests with some women using their elbows to smash windows at the police stations. Violet was arrested and charged with obstruction. She was sentenced to five days imprisonment. Like many who wished to retain an element of anonymity she gave her as the WSPU headquarters.
In 1912 the WSPU escalated the window-smashing campaign. Violet was arrested on 5 March 1912. The charge sheet for Violet states that she was arrested along with Clara Giveen for breaking twelve windows valued at £100 at the premises of Jays Limited in Westminster. Her father wrote in his diary: “she has been again arrested and this time for breaking plate glass windows, I am overwhelmed with shame and distress to think that a daughter of mine should do anything so wicked… ‘But my poor wife! It’s heart breaking to think of her being exposed in her old age to the horror….God help us!’ Violet was sentenced to four months imprisonment.
The Times reported on 26 June 26, 1912, that due to overcrowding at Holloway some women prisoners were moved to Winson Green prison, Birmingham. Violet was one of them. Refusing food, she was force fed. The file covering her internment makes bleak reading. The entry for Violet on 23 June notes that she was fed by a nasal tube and ‘vomited continuously’. One report, stamped 26 June 1912, records: No change. To be force fed again tonight’. The report goes on to note that it had been recommended by telephone that if necessary, Violet should be released. This decision was in response to a medical report which noted: ‘Vomited considerably-nervous anaemic state – continued force feeding would endanger health’. Keir Hardie, a Labour member of Parliament, requested details of the medical qualifications of persons subjecting the women to force feeding. He was informed they were all qualified with experience in lunatic asylums, but their names would be withheld in case of reprisals. The file includes a petition signed by one hundred and fourteen medical practitioners asserting that the danger came from the ‘force’ element of feeding which distinguished it from feeding tubes used as part of medical practice. It was the element of force which could cause suffering and potential damage.Shortly afterwards, Violet was released on medical grounds; she was recorded as being in a ‘fair’ state. She was immediately admitted to a nursing home. After, for a time, she worked for The Suffragette, the printed voice of the campaign for votes. She died in 1987 in Hertfordshire, aged 101.
 http://norfolkwomeninhistory.com/1851-1899/marian-violet-aitken/: NRO, MC 2165/1/23, 976X4
The publication by http://findmypast.co.uk of a collection of suffragette documentation prepared by the courts and government has meant that new details can be added to the research already undertaken. The next few blogs will revisit old ones and update them. The first of these is posted below.
Ironically for a movement dominated by women the first name in the record is Alfred Abbey. He was arrested on March 1 1911, alongside Henry Garrett. Both men were members of the Men’s Association for the Promotion of Women’s Suffrage. While the Cabinet was meeting at Downing Street the men attempted to scale the wall into the garden with the purpose, they stated, of delivering a letter regarding women’s suffrage. Arrested, they were charged at Bow Street police station with disorderly conduct. The prosecution stated that if the men were “heartily ashamed” of their actions they could be bound over to keep the peace for three months. Henry accepted, but Alfred refused stating he had been forced into taking such an unusual step to get his letter delivered as all other attempts to be heard had failed. He was imprisoned for 21 days in the Second Division.
The previous year force-feeding had been stopped for suffragettes but continued in respect of other prisoners, who refused food, whose crime involved moral turpitude. Not classed as a suffragette due to his gender when Alfred went on hunger strike, he was force-fed. Questions were asked in the House of Commons of Winston Churchill. He stated that moral turpitude included amongst other things serious violence which had occurred in this instance. Given that the other defendant had been bound over to keep the peace this interpretation of events appears far from honest. Angered by Churchill’s answers Hugh Franklin, another campaigner who detested Churchill, wrapped a letter and a feeding tube around a stone hurling it at Churchill’s windows. Imprisoned in Pentonville Prison he was also force-fed. The Votes for Women dated March 17th 1911 carried the headline “Man Prisoner Force Fed.” For a brief time, he was headline news.
Dorothy Foster Abraham was arrested on March 4th 1912. Born in 1866 she was the daughter, of Alfred Clay Abraham a prominent chemist in Liverpool and Lucy Ellison Clay herself an activist for women’s right to vote. Dorothy was educated at boarding school and then went on to study at Liverpool University and King’s College, London. An early member of the WSPU, whose early meetings her mother hosted in her drawing room, Dorothy was active in both London and Liverpool. In March 1912, the WSPU ceased giving prior warning to the authorities of their intended actions and launched a surprise attack. Over hundred women were given hammers and directed to designated sites, hiding the hammers in their muffs. At 5.45 pm they started to smash windows in Oxford Street, Regent Street and other well-known addresses. Amongst the shops targeted were Liberty’s, Marshall & Snelgrove, Burberry and Harrods where Dorothy was arrested. Sent to Holloway Prison she was charged with malicious damage to a window at the Aerated Bread Company valued at £15 and two windows the property of Charles Stuart valued at £50. Dorothy was, however, released due to insufficient evidence to secure a conviction.
When war broke out Dorothy, and her mother joined the Home Service Corp which succeeded the Liverpool WSPU; a group formed to enable women to put themselves forward for war work. Dorothy who had studied at Agriculture College worked on several farms. Ultimately settling on a farm her father bought for her. In 1923 Dorothy married Thomas Place. During World War II she served as an air raid warden. She died in 1976 leaving four children.
Lilyarde Acherling was arrested on November 22nd 1911 and December 12th, 1911. There are no records under this name, but research indicates from a report in The Citizen dated December 12th 1911 that her name was Lelgarde Acheling aged 26 an actress. Perhaps unsurprisingly given her profession this name also appears to be pseudonym or stage name. On November 22nd 1911 over, two hundred women were arrested for breaking windows. Her second offence, in December, was when she was charged alongside Frances Rowe and Violet Jones with damaging plate glass windows at the National Bank. The damage amounting to £50. The report does not record if the three women were imprisoned, but this seems likely as women tried on the same day for a similar offence were.
Christine Adams, sometimes known by the alias, Miss de Pass, was arrested on June 8th 1914. She was charged with riotous behaviour at the Brompton Oratory where a group of women interrupted the service by chanting about Mrs Pankhurst. The priest escorted two of the women out, and on his return, Christine was standing in front of the pulpit screaming, her hat having been ripped off by members of the congregation. She was fined £5 which she refused to pay and was therefore imprisoned for one month. On June 17th she was released under the Cat and Mouse Act having been on hunger strike for ten days. Her condition was described in the press as critical. After a period of recuperation, she was returned to prison finally released at the end of July.
Martha Adams was arrested for the same episode of window breaking in March 1912 as Dorothy Abraham. Recorded as Martha A she is, in fact, Martha Helena Adams. She was born in 1868 in Edmonton, North London. Her father, Joseph, was an ironmonger. Martha had numerous siblings; some of the younger ones were born in France where the family lived for a while. By 1891 the family had returned to England settling in Brecknock Road, Holloway, North London. Ten years later the census records the family living in the same house. While the sons had flown the nest five unmarried sisters, aged between thirty-five and eighteen remained living at home. Although the arrest records state Martha was employed as a clerk the census return, a year earlier does not record any employment. Little had altered from ten years previously. Her mother now widowed lived at the same address still with two unmarried daughters, one of whom was Martha. Perhaps, it was frustration at her position in life that drove her to campaign for the vote.
At the initial hearing several, including Mrs Pankhurst were found guilty and imprisoned, but Martha’s offence, malicious damage to two windows valued at £15 meant the matter was referred to a higher court as the damage exceeded £5. She was sentenced to four months imprisonment in Holloway, only a short distance from her home.
By 1939 Martha was living in Brighton where she died just before Christmas 1946.
Kate Adamson was arrested on March 4th 1912 having taken part in the same window breaking as Dorothy Adams and Martha Adams. However, rather than being arrested for malicious damage, the charge was insulting behaviour. She was sentenced to fourteen days imprisonment.
Violet Ethel Addis was arrested on February 12th 1908. A member of the WSPU she was part of an attack on the House of Commons. The women split into two groups: some were concealed in a van which pulled up outside St Stephen’s Hall, and the other group marched from Westminster Hall where the Women’s Parliament had been sitting to present a resolution of the meeting demanding the vote. Both groups failed in their attempt to enter the House of Commons, and about fifty women were arrested. Violet was recorded as being thirty- one years old, married and from Birmingham and appears to have gone to prison.
Audrey Aimler was arrested on March 12th 1912, again part of the window smashing protest. Recorded as born in 1884, she was charged with maliciously damaging a post office window along with Jessie Heward. Audrey was sentenced to two months hard labour. The records note that she was also known as Mary Fitzgerald.
Emily Brandon was arrested and sentenced on December 1 1911. She was charged with causing an obstruction in Parliament Square on November 21st and trying to force her way through the police cordon. The police stated they had repeatedly requested her to move, when she refused they arrested her. In court Emily stated “the Manhood Suffrage Bill is an insult to the women of England, and I did it as a protest.”[i] She was fined five shillings or five days in prison. She elected imprisonment.
Emily was born Emily Charlotte Mcmahon Foyle in London in 1878. The family lived in Aldgate, London where her father was a warehouseman. When Emily left school she worked in a hotel in Hanover Square in the West End of London as a clerk. On June 16th 1901 Emily married Albert Brandon, a upholsterer, from Tring, Buckinghamshire. The couple settled in Chesham, Buckinghamshire where Emily founded the Chesham branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union.
What happened to Emily after her spell in prison is not clear.
She died in 1968 in North London.
Stated on the arrest records as Mary Grace Branson her correct name is as recorded on the Suffragette Roll of Honour, Grace Mary Branson. On the 1911 census return is entered “Until I am acknowledged to be a citizen of Great Britain I refuse to carry out the duties of citizens.” Other than G M Branson, Branson daughter, Prout servant, Mrs Harvey visitor and her three children daughter, son and son. The only clue is it states that Grace is a widow. No trace has been found of any further background information. Her daughter Edith was born on May 26 1899 and she went onto to marry on of the anonymous sons of Mrs Harvey, Charles Donald Warren Harvey.
Grace was arrested twice, March 1912 and February 10th 1913. The first time was for breaking windows in the Haymarket. She was sentenced four months and sent to Aylesbury prison. Along with four others she was released early. Winston Churchill had promised that they could wear their own clothes and be given books to read. When these concessions were not forthcoming the prisoners started a hunger strike. The prison authorities commenced force feeding.
The following year Grace was charged with breaking three windows at the Junior Carlton Club with a value of £4 10 shillings. One witness stated that Grace had thrown several pieces of lead at the windows. In her defence, Grace addressed the court “I did it as a suffragette and as one who protests against the government of the country by men alone. Also the fact of prostitution existing is enough to justify any of these acts on our part. This standard of morality makes us women sick to death, and we are going to cleanse and abolish it.”[ii] Found guilty she was sentenced to two months in prison. This time she was sent to Holloway. Alongside Sylvia Pankhurst and Edith Ball [see earlier blog] she was force fed.
Grace is mentioned in a letter that Sylvia wrote to her mother, Emmeline. She describes in graphic detail the process of being force fed “They prise open my mouth with a steel gag…My gums are always bleeding.” She wrote that the authorities claimed they did not resist “Yet my shoulders are bruised with struggling...”. She mentions that Mrs Branson, Grace has a heart defect and wonders whether anything can be done.
A meeting was held where the Bishop of London protested at the barbarity of force feeding. In response, a debate took place in the House of Commons. Reginald Mackenna, the Home Secretary, stated that the women were prepared to die which he did not intend to let them do, thus the force feeding. The movement needed to be broken down using “patience, forbearance and humanity.” [iii] It is possibly a stretch to imply that keeping the women from starving themselves to death by force feeding is a sign of humanity. He proposed, in response to the growing public disgust at the practice of force feeding, that the women could be freed on licence if their health was in danger. This proposal would become the Cat and Mouse Act where women were released on licence and when they had physically recovered were taken back inside to serve the rest of their sentence. Early in April 1913 Grace was released. She spoke to the press describing one suffragette would had learnt how to contract her throat so that a finer tube had to be used but this was not before she had had two teeth smashed. The treatment of Grace and many others forced the government into the release on licence of women who it was felt could not endure the practice of force feeding but it did not alter their stance on the vote or the practice of force feeding until it could be endured no longer.
Grace and her daughter and son in law settled in Devon where she died in 1961.
[i] Bucks Herald December 9th 1911
[ii] Sheffield Daily Telegraph February 11th 1913
[iii] Ibid March 19th 1913
Janet Augusta Boyd was born in 1855 to George and Anne Haig. Part of a large extended family her niece Margaret Thomas Haig, and her cousins Louisa and Florence Haig also became suffragettes. In 1874 Janet married George Boyd, a solicitor. His father was Edward Fenwick Boyd, an industrialist based in the north east of England who built a substantial family house called Moor House in the small village of Leamside on the outskirts of Durham. In due course George inherited the house and Janet and their four daughters moved in. George died in 1909 and this seems to have allowed Janet to pursue her contribution to the fight for suffrage for women.
The Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette dated June 12th 1911 reported that Janet had refused to pay her rates amounting to £21 and in consequence an auction was to be held at her house to raise the funds. Janet offered a Spanish mantilla for sale which was bought by her gardener presumably funded by his employer. The auctioneer announced his support for the campaign and a member of the WSPU came to address the crowd. Prior to this it seems likely Janet joined the protest against the 1911 census return as she does not appear.
Janet was first arrested on November 19th 1911 for breaking a window in the Strand. In court she stated “I don’t consider I was guilty, because I was doing it for a good purpose.” She was fined 10 shillings and three shillings for the damage. Her second arrest was in March 1912. At the first hearing she was committed for trial alongside her cousin Florence Haig for breaking two windows each at D H Evans to a value of £66. She was sentenced to six months imprisonment. Florence stated that if she was bound over to keep the peace she would feel like a soldier deserting in the middle of battle was sentenced to four months. Following a hunger strike when she was not force fed she was released in June of that year. She was one of the women who “signed” a hankerchief owned now by the Priest House at Hoathly.[i]
She died in December 1928 and is included in the Suffragette Roll of Honour.
The next entry reads Dinah or Nina Boyle who was arrested on several occasions during 1912, 1913 and 1914. Born Constance Antonia in 1865 to Robert, an army captain and Frances her father died when she was four years old. Her widowed mother was left with six children, the youngest of whom David was only a few months old. At some point Nina went to live in South Africa where she was a journalist writing for the Transvaal Leader alongside nursing during the Boer War. She wrote to the Times newspaper of the unequal treatment metered out to Boer and loyalist refugees. Interested in women’s rights she founded the Women's Enfranchisement League of Johannesburg.
Nina returned to England in 1911. She was initially active in the Victoria League and Colonial Intelligence League for Educated Women. The former she resigned from when she felt they were pursuing an anti-suffrage stance. She spoke at a meeting of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies in Redhill in April 1911 about the suffrage campaign in South Africa. Present was Mrs Harley, sister of Charlotte Despard with whom Nina was soon to become closely involved. A month later she addressed a joint conference of suffrage groups in Edinburgh highlighting the unpaid work women undertook without which the country would suffer.
Shortly, thereafter she joined the Women’s Freedom League whose President was Charlotte Despard. She regularly addressed meetings and was elected to the executive. She also was a member of the Tax Resistance League. Nina was arrested alongside Charlotte Despard and Julia Wood and charged with obstruction. Current regulations banned protests in Trafalgar Square. In breach of these Charlotte mounted a plinth addressing a growing crowd, standing alongside her was Julia and Nina who rang a hand bell. They all refused to descend and were arrested. Nina was fined 60 shillings or 10 days imprisonment. The other two were treated similarly. All elected to go to prison. However not long afterwards their fines were paid and they were released.
A similar ban on public speaking had been imposed in Hyde Park. In May 1913 Nina and Annie Munroe were arrested for attempting to break the ban. At the same time four of the Women’s Freedom League executive including Nina wrote to every police force urging them to refuse to rearrest any woman who had been released from imprisonment suffering from the effects of force feeding, in other words women released under the Cat and Mouse Act on licence. In court Nina and Annie were fined 20 shillings or fourteen days imprisonment. They both elected to go to prison. Both complained about the conditions of the prison vans where contrary to the attestation by the Home Secretary that men and women were separated within the vans this was not the case. They both served their sentences in full.
Nina returned immediately to campaigning. In November 1913 Nina along with others was arrested and charged with obstruction. At the initial hearing Nina applied for an adjournment so she could call witnesses. The magistrate was far from amenable to which she retorted “Why should we be dictated to by Mr Muskett, sitting there with his ears cocked like an intelligent terrier?”[ii] Her requested was granted and she was bailed for a week. At the reconvened hearing Nina was bound over to keep the peace, on her refusal to agreed she was sent to prison for one day.
Campaigning swiftly resumed and Nina travelled the country addressing meetings. In July 1914 she was arrested and charged with obstruction. Five women, Nina gave her name as Ann Smith, chained themselves to the door in the waiting room of the Marlborough Street Police Court temporarily housed Francis Street. The police cut them free putting them outside of the building from whence they refused to move. They were each bailed for a £2 surety. At the trial Nina when entering the witness box exclaimed “Here we are again! It’s quite like coming to see old friends.”[iii] She was fined forty shillings or a week imprisonment.
Immediately after the outbreak of World War 1 Nina lobbied for the founding of a female body of Special Constables who could protect women and children in the absence of the men. She also was an active member of the Women Suffrage National Aid Corps formed to provide support services to women whose husbands were away fighting. Without any government approval for her proposal regarding women police Nina together with Margaret Dawson continued on their own and by January 1915 the Corps of Women Police Volunteers had been formed. Courses were undertaken in first aid, court rules and self-defence. Everyone wore a uniform, Nina being one of the first. However, she split from the Corps when they sought to curtail the freedom of women by imposing a curfew on prostitutes. Although a women’s force continued to operate in London and Brighton under the auspices of the Women’s Freedom League.
In October 1915 Nina was charged with failing to register under the Alien Restriction Order 1915. The case was dismissed when it was held the summons had not been issued correctly. In due course she was awarded damages for her illegal arrest. Nina used this experience to raise awareness of the lack of reasonable treatment for women held in police cells where there was no accommodation for women nor any women gaolers.
Towards the end of 1916 Nina travelled to the Salonika Front to act as a nursing orderly. It was widely reported in the press prior to this that her fiancée had been killed and perhaps that is what prompted her to take this step. There Nina renewed her acquaintance with Katherine Harley who was eager to learn of her sister Charlotte. Nina remained for eight months. On her return she continued with campaigning and supporting the wives left behind.
In 1918 Nina announced that she would stand in a by election as a prospective member of Parliament for Keighley. It was ruled that as a women she could stand but as her nomination papers were incorrectly completed she could not. This acceptance of a woman’s right to stand allowed others to stand in the general election in 1918.
Nina remained politically active for the rest of her life particularly supported the National Union of Women Teachers and the Save the Children Fund. She also wrote novels. She died in March 1943.
[ii] Globe November 17 1913
[iii] Daily Record July 14 1914