Dora Spong and others
Ellen Beaver was arrested on February 14th 1907. In the newspapers she is described as a housekeeper aged thirty five from Crosland Moor, Huddersfield who was sentenced to a fine or fourteen days imprisonment. This is the same protest that Pattie Barrett and Ann Alice Older [see earlier blogs] participated in where the women attempted to enter the House of Commons.
Ellen’s correct name is Ellen Beever. She is often stated to be the aunt of Ann whereas she is in face her great aunt. Born in 1848, the daughter of Samuel and Mary Beever, she grew up in Holmfirth, Yorkshire. Her father was a weaver in the local mill and each of her siblings as they became old enough joined him. Ellen became a woollen weaver but by 1891 she has left the mill to work as a domestic. Her younger brother James had joined the police force which possibly placed him in a difficult position when Ellen joined the suffragette movement.
The 1901 census records Ellen as the only sibling still living at home caring for her elderly mother. Ten years later her mother has died and Ellen is living alone. She died in 1913.
Clara Bechstein arrested on February 19th 1909 was one of a group of eight arrested and charged with obstruction trying to enter the House of Commons. The group included one of the leaders, Charlotte Despard, and one man. They were attempting to deliver to the Prime Minster a written statement. At court the usual options as to sentence were a fine and agreeing to be bound over to keep the peace or imprisonment. Clara elected to be bound over.
It seems probable that Clare Bechstein is actually Helena Clara Kathleen Broadbent born in 1882 and used a combination of her own name and her mother’s, a ruse suffragettes often used to prevent family knowing if it was reported in the newspapers. Her mother was born in Germany where her parents, Howard Broadbent and Henriette Clara Katharina Bechstein, married. The couple settled in Mirfield, Yorkshire. Helena was the eldest of five children, one of whom died aged two in 1888. Her father worked as a bookkeeper but 1898 her father died leaving her mother to care for her four surviving children the youngest of whom was four years old.
Only months after her arrest her mother died and only two years later her only sister Doris also died. By the time of the 1911 census Helena is running the family home caring for her two brothers and two lodgers. Tragedy struck the family again when her brother Oscar was killed in 1917 at Flanders. Her sole surviving brother died in 1951. Helena died in 1963.
Ethel M Beckett was arrested twice on November 28th 1911 and January 29th 1913. The first offence was obstruction following her participation in an attempt to enter the House of Commons when she attempted to break through the police cordon. Ethel commented in court that hers was a protest against the cowardly behaviour of the Government against defenceless women. She was sentenced to five days in prison.
In January 1913 she was arrested for throwing a spanner twice at the windows of the Post Office in Dover Street, Piccadilly. She gave her address as the Woburn Palace Hotel. She was found guilty of malicious damage and was sentenced to three months imprisonment. The damage was valued at in excess of £5. An appeal was lodged against the sentence by her barrister George Rivers Blanco White, a supporter of women’s rights, on the grounds that no evidence had been presented at trial to verify the actual value of the damage. The judge dismissed the appeal in a matter of minutes remarking “...the point is an ingenious one, but there was no substance in it.”
Dora Beedham is recorded on the arrest record as well as Dora Spong which was her maiden name. She was arrested a total of five times. Born in 1879 to James and Frances she was the fourth daughter. Her elder sisters were Minnie born in 1869, Annie born in 1871 and Florence born in 1873 who herself was an active suffragette and like Doris was arrested. A fifth daughter Irene was born in 1882. Dora also had an elder brother, James, born in 1869 and a younger brother, Francis, born in 1875 who died the year before she was born. Her father founded Spong and Co, a company manufacturing household appliances such as coffee grinders, mincers or corkscrews, which became a household name.
Dora was intent on being a working woman qualifying as a midwife. In 1908 she joined the WSPU and was first arrested soon after on July 1st 1908 for her part in an attempt to enter the House of Commons and was sentenced one month imprisonment but due to ill health she was released early. She was arrested for a second time on July 12th 1909, one of over hundred suffragettes arrested for principally disorderly conduct or obstruction in connection with a march to the House of Commons. No record of her sentence has been found. Only a few days later her sister Florence was arrested and imprisoned in Holloway for one month. All the female members supported each other although none were as active as Dora and Florence. The youngest sister Irene advertised in Votes for Women as a singing teacher.
On October 14th 1910 she married Ralph Beedham who had trained as a formschneider, a wood engraver who carved an artist’s design into a wood block. Weeks later Dora was arrested for her part Black Friday but as for all the participants the charges were dropped. Whilst Ralph is recorded on the 1911 census Dora is not along with all the other female family members apart from Annie. The final two entries are March 2nd 1912 recorded as Dora Spong and March 5th recorded as Dora Beedham. These relate to two separate appearances in court when she was charged with smashing windows. Found guilty she was sentenced to two months imprisonment with hard labour.
Dora and Ralph went on to have two children: Ruth born in 1914 and David born in 1917. Dora died in 1969.
With thanks to the Museum of London
9/22/2017 10:42:22 am
I am very proud to say that Dora Spong is my great-grandmother!
2/21/2018 10:24:07 am
Can you tell me if your grandmother or mother was a headmistress of an all girls school in Maida vale London please.
1/27/2021 03:02:26 am
As far as I am aware Dora Spong was not a headmistress.
1/27/2021 02:40:55 am
Ellen Beever's niece (Miss Ann Sykes of 6 Primitive Street) and niece-in-law (Annie Maria Sykes née Jepson of Thornton Lodge) were both members of the Huddersfield WSPU branch.
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