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.