Grace Edith Burbidge was born in 1887 in Holloway, North London. Her parents were William, an accountant to a pianoforte manufacturer and Harriet. Grace had six brothers and one sister. By the time Grace was three the family had moved to 22 Hartham Road, Holloway. In 1902 Grace’s mother died and her sister, Hilda who had been a pupil teacher became her father’s housekeeper. Eight years later Grace is noted on the 1911 census as working as a clerk for a motor company. Five of her six brothers were still living at home and her sister is being assisted in her domestic duties by a servant.
In January 1913, Grace was arrested and charged with maliciously damaging several letters by pouring liquid phosphorus into a pillar box. A postman emptied the box at nine in the evening and as he walked down the road noticed his bag was alight. He tipped the contents on the ground, finding a tube containing phosphorous and four damaged letters. Earlier another postman had noticed a woman, later identified as Grace, near the pillar box on the junction of Camden Road and Sandall Road, with her right arm enveloped in a blue flame screaming. He reported the matter to the police who followed Grace to a nearby doctor who was dressing her arm. When the policeman approached her, Grace said ‘I went to put it into the box, and it went on my arm instead’. After her arrest Grace commented that she had failed ‘never mind, you know what it was through’.
At her trial Grace pleaded guilty. Her solicitor, Arthur Marshall, husband of Kitty, a suffragette, said she had been severely burned, undertook not to commit a similar offence and ‘was practically the mainstay of her family’. She was bound over for six months and fined £25. The Magistrate described Grace as a ‘poor deluded dupe of others’.
There are no reports suggesting that prior to this event Grace was involved with any of the suffragette groups but by the summer of 1913 she was joint honorary secretary of the Islington Branch of the WSPU. Each Wednesday evening Grace and her fellow secretary made themselves available at the branch premises in Goswell Road, for consultation. It was a position Grace held until at least 1914.
In 1929 Grace married Jacob Wasserzug or West, a dental instrument maker of Polish descent who like her had grown up in north London. No further information has been located.
Leave a Reply.