The next entry on the arrest record is Mrs Margaret Shaw Brown or in a margin entry Margaret Hopkins. As is often the case, the alias given is, in fact, her maiden name. Margaret Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins was born in Falmouth, Cornwall in 1866. As given on her marriage certificate, her father's name was Charles, whose occupation was given as engineer. Margaret is recorded on the 1881 census at school in Saltash, Cornwall. In October 1888, she married John Shaw Brown Akyhab, Bengal, India, a municipal secretary. An announcement was placed in the Dundee Courier citing that John was to wed Maggie. Less than six years later, John died in Burma.
It appears that Margaret returned to England and trained as a midwife. The 1920 Midwives Roll records Margaret as qualifying in November 1905. In the same year, Margaret is also included in the register of Physiotherapy and Masseurs. On the evening of 10 February 1914, Emmeline Pankhurst addressed a crowd of over a thousand from the second-floor window of the London home of the Brackenburys (see earlier blog), 2 Campden Hill Square, which was used as a nursing home and headquarters from time to time by the WSPU. During her speech, Emmeline announced her intention to shortly leave the property, challenging the police to re-arrest her as she was out on release from prison under the Cat and Mouse Act's provisions. In the dark and gloom of a winter's evening, the police struggled to identify Emmeline from among a small group who left the house, which was not aided by the crowd growing increasingly hostile. One policeman described the 'flourishing of clubs and shouting in an excited manner.'
The police arrested one woman, 'dressed to resemble Mrs Pankhurst' but turned out to be a Mrs F E Smith. As they did so, the crowd surged forward, felling not only some of the police officers but also their prisoner. Eventually, the police managed to remove Mrs Smith to the local police station. While the scrummage ensued at the front of the house, Emmeline escaped from the rear. Six other women were arrested, including Margaret, who protested at court at having her fingerprints taken when on remand at Holloway Prison. 'What proof have you that my name is Mrs Shaw Brown? I want to protest against my fingerprints being taken in Holloway. Is it legal, Sir?' Margaret asked the Magistrate. Margaret, charged with obstruction, was fined ten shillings or seven days in prison.
Margaret was arrested for a second time the following month for breaking windows of, Reginald McKenna, the Home Secretary's, residence in Smith Square. She was sentenced to two months with hard labour on 14 March. A report dated 16 March notes that while Margaret was on hunger strike, no attempt had been made to force feed her.
Only three days later, Margaret was released from prison under the Cat and Mouse Act in an ambulance in a 'very weak condition.' The Woman's Dreadnought reported that Margaret was re-arrested on 19 June, while The Suffragette notes that she was returned to Holloway Prison earlier, went on hunger strike and was re-released under the Cat and Mouse Act on 20 June. The following week's edition of The Suffragette noted that Margaret 'has been very much reduced by her imprisonment. For some days after her release, she was in a state of fever, and she is now weak and nervously shocked. It will be some weeks before she is well again.'
From 1919 to 1922, Margaret is registered on the electoral roll living in Melvin Hall, a substantial block of flats, in Golders Green. The last record of Margaret is living in Devon.
Robert Henry Brown was arrested in October 1908. A march on the House of Commons had been planned. The police on foot and mounted filled the area, no one was allowed to pass the cordon without suitable credentials and traffic was diverted away from Parliament Square. The column of women marched towards Parliament only to be deterred in every attempt to breach the cordon. Around forty people were arrested including thirteen men. Among the women detained, already discussed in earlier blogs, were Kathleen Brown and Winifred Bray. Nothing has been found further to identify Robert.
Myra Eleanor Sadd-Brown, who was arrested twice: November 1911 and March the following year. In 1911 Myra was one of around two hundred suffragettes arrested. Charged with obstruction, she was sentenced to a 5-shilling fine or five days in prison. She elected to go to prison.
Myra Eleanor Sadd was born in 1872 in Maldon, Essex to John, a timber merchant, and Mary Anne. The second youngest of ten children, five girls and five boys, Myra grew up in Maldon, where her family were members of the Congregational Church. Besides his business interests, her father was Mayor four times of Maldon, a visiting justice to the Essex County Lunatic Asylum and a Harbour Commissioner. A Liberal John instilled in his children the importance of hard work and service to the community. Myra married Ernest Brown, a hardware merchant, in September 1896. She followed other liberal-minded couples and from her marriage was known as Sadd Brown.
The couple lived at 34 Woodberry Down, just off Green Lanes at the northern tip of Finsbury Park. They had four children: Myra Sadd, 1899; Ernest Sadd, 1904; Emily Price, 1906 and Jean Frances, 1908. Ernest and his brothers established Brown Brothers Limited, based in Great Eastern Street, Shoreditch, with branches across the country and representatives in Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa and South America. The business retailed bicycles, motorbikes and, at one point, cars plus any parts required.
Ernest was a member of the Worshipful Company of Tin Plate Workers. An entity whose application form presumed a male applicant. All four children followed in his footsteps. On the girls' forms, son is crossed out, and daughter substituted, but the rest of the form remains unannotated 'because he is legitimate, and was born after the admission of his father'. Jean's form was completed in 1929.
Myra was elected a poor law guardian serving on the Hackney Board for six years. On Edward VII's coronation, Myra donated sufficient strawberries and sugar to feed around eight hundred elderly and infirm residents in the Hackney Workhouse. A donation she repeated in following years, providing over four hundred pounds of fruit each time. A member of the Women's Liberal Federation, Myra attended a conference in Birmingham in May 1901. One woman called the assembled company' political dummies' if they supported any candidate who disagreed with women's suffrage. Another pointed out that without the vote, women were classed 'with paupers, lunatics, criminals and children,' Despite these pleas, the motion to only support candidates who were pro-suffrage was defeated. Another significant issue was the Boer War with the proposed resolution that the encounter was 'all wrong from beginning to end.' With several others, Myra countered the proposal with 'considerable vigour,' observing why 'our Army and ourselves' were being painted 'as black as possible and the other side as white and as pure as the driven snow?' This statement was met with widespread approval.
In January 1903, Myra addressed a meeting of the Romford Women's Liberal Association entitled The Ideals of Liberalism stressing, the importance of women taking their place in politics. Women needed to be organised in their campaigning 'without which they were like a rudderless ship' undertaking 'to do their share of the fighting for the freedom and privileges of Liberalism which … would again be the might movement it had been in its best day.'
Myra's mother, Mary Ann, was President of the Maldon branch of the Association. At the family home, Mary Ann hosted a gathering at which Myra spoke about women's suffrage. At the annual conference in Halifax, Myra moved a resolution condemning the proposed London Education Bill, which, if passed, would see women unable to stand for election to education authorities, an arena in which they had previously made significant contributions. The resolution easily passed. At the evening reception Earl Beauchamp, a Liberal peer, added his support, voicing his opinion that the Bill was 'a failure.' In April 1904, Myra ceased to be a guardian. At her final meeting, it was observed that Myra 'had the mind and courage of a lady combined with the inferior power of a man.'
©Museum of London Commercial picture postcard published by the Rotary Photographic Company. The comic postcard is printed with two studio photographs of a young female child representing the Suffragette both 'at home' - reading a newspaper and 'at work' - standing on a chair delivering a speech. The postmark is dated 15 August 1909 and includes a message possibly sent to the Suffragette Myra Sadd Brown. It notes the sender is going to the White City Exhibition the following day.
By July 1907, Myra was secretary of the North Hackney Women's Liberal Association, part of the Federation, which she set about re-organising. In the same year, she donated £5 to the WSPU's £20000 fund. At a meeting of the Federation at Caxton Hal,l it was proposed, as it had been in Birmingham, that support should only be extended to candidates who supported women's suffrage. Myra sought to extend the proposition to refusing to assist in any electoral activity unless 'a measure for [women's] enfranchisement' was brought in. It appears that Myra's proposal was not accepted.
The Women's Franchise, the WFL newspaper, announced in October 1908 that Myra was to be one of the speakers at Caxton Hall. Despite this allegiance, she and Ernest donated £5 each to the WSPU £50000 fund. Myra joined the Hackney branch of the WFL chairing in December 1908, a two-day gathering in the Stoke Newington Library Gallery. Speeches by Charlotte Despard, Teresa Billington-Greig, were followed by performances from the South Palace Orchestra and the gallery was filled with stalls offering needlework, dolls or pictures for sale. From 1909 onwards, Myra addressed WFL meetings regularly. At an At Home held at Caxton Hall, Myra explained why she had abandoned the Women's Liberal Federation which, had become 'hide-bound' by putting 'the cloak of party right round them.' Myra spoke at a meeting of the New Constitutional Society for Women's Suffrage, an organisation formed in 1910 after the General Election to lobby the Liberal Members of Parliament on the subject of women's suffrage.
The family had by now moved to 2 Chesterford Gardens, a substantial red brick house, in Hampstead while they often spent the summer months in Essex. At some point, the family purchased Crossways in Little Baddow, where Myra would host events. Ernest's business interests were flourishing, and Myra was supported in her domestic role by three maids and a children's nurse.
In March 1912, Myra was charged with breaking a window at the War Office. At her trial, Myra's lawyer, who also represented Catherine Richmond, pleaded that they 'got carried along by some people behind them.' The magistrate was unimpressed observing, he 'could understand a young girl being carried along, but these were middle-aged women,' before sentencing them to two months with hard labour.
The WSPU newspaper, Votes for Women, kept its readers appraised of how the prisoners were fairing. Myra went on a hunger strike. One prisoner, on her release, reported that attempts had been made to forcibly feed Myra by nasal tube, despite being made aware that she had previously broken her nose and had her throat operated on. The forcible feeding resulted in bleeding from her nose and throat. Following her release, Myra wrote to the Daily Herald detailing her experiences. She had decided to refuse food in protest that the privileges which could be accorded to prisoners should not be 'withheld according to the discretion of one man.' When it was decided to commence feeding by the nasal tube, no examination of Myra's nose was made despite the doctor being aware of her medical history. It took four attempts to pass the tube through one of her nostrils successfully. Myra informed the Governor of her previous medical history but, despite her plea, force-feeding was attempted again the following day. After four attempts, the procedure was abandoned.
Myra wrote, 'I do not wish to speak of my mental or physical sufferings; they are indescribable.' Keir Hardie asked questions in the House of Commons concerning Myra's treatment to which Ellis Ellis-Griffith, Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office, responded that if she 'suffered any pain it was due entirely to the violent resistance she offered in the form of 'the unusual power she possessed of contracting the throat muscles, and expelling the tube.'
Ernest wrote to the Prison Governor, forwarding a copy to the Home Secretary (see below for a link where you can listen to the letters Myra and Ernest exchanged) the day after Myra's release on 29 April. He had learned of the force-feeding from the Press but had decided to refrain from writing until he had heard Myra's account. Ernest recounts the facts commenting that Myra's treatment had given her 'a severe shock.' He questions why, despite Myra informing the medical staff of her history, no examination was conducted. In his covering letter to the Home Secretary, Ernest demanded an enquiry. The doctor concerned wrote a report to the Prison Governor confirming that he had been made aware of Myra's medical history and had reassured her 'that if an obstruction did exist the soft rubber tube was the safest and most gentle instrument for ascertaining its presence.' No such obstruction was found; the issues were caused by Myra's ability to expel the tube. He had not observed any bleeding nor, he contended, had Myra informed him of any such occurrence. A different doctor had attempted the procedure the following day. The same issues occurred with the nasal tube, and therefore he decided to use the oesophageal one instead. Before this was attempted, the prisoners decided to take their food and, Myra joined them. In concluding, the doctor described Myra as 'violently resistive.'
While Myra continued to be a member of the WSPU, she was also a supporter of the Women's Tax Resistance League. In January 1913, she hosted an At Home at which Louisa Garrett Anderson spoke. Myra also supported the Church League for Women's Suffrage, whose founding aim was to secure the vote in Church and State as it was granted to men. At their Spring Fair, held at a Congregational Church Hall, Myra ran the refreshment stall. At the same time, Ernest donated £10 to their funds. In June 1913, Myra was elected to the executive of the Church League for Women's Suffrage.
By 1914 Myra appears to have aligned herself with the East London Federation of Suffragettes while continuing her work with the Church League for Women's Suffrage. Formerly the East London Federation, it was founded by Amy Bull and Sylvia Pankhurst in 1913 on democratic lines and allowed men to be members. Early in 1914, the group was expelled from the WSPU and altered its name. At the same time, the Federation launched the Women's Dreadnought newspaper. In an attempt to raise much-needed funds members, were encouraged to participate in a self-denial week. Myra and her family lived off nothing other than bread and cheese for a week donating the funds saved.
Myra purchased copies of the Women's Dreadnought for distribution. By the end of 1914, Myra was involved again with the WFL supporting the Women's Suffrage National Aid Corp, founded to provide women and children with assistance who were financially suffering because of World War I. Much of this work centred around Charlotte Despard's premises in Currie Street where children could stay if their mothers were hospitalised, nutritious vegetarian meals were provided, or women remunerated for sewing clothes in a workshop. Myra hosted an At Home where Charlotte spoke of the support working-class women and children needed. Similarly, Myra hosted an At Home to raise funds for the East London Federation of Suffragettes. The Federation organised at Caxton Hall a two-day exhibition where various suffrage societies had stalls alongside a Women's Labour Exhibit which included a sweated labour section demonstrating the work of brush, matchbox and garment makers; an area displaying the products of the East London Toy Factory and a demonstration of the reality of price increases. Myra ran the refreshment stall.
In June 1915, the Hampstead Branch of the WFL hosted a gathering to celebrate Charlotte Despard's birthday. Myra's children performed a selection of French plays described as 'charming.' Both Ernest and Myra generously financially supported the Federation both on a monthly and ad hoc basis. At a Church League prayer meeting and tea table conference, the discussion centred around whether women should serve on War Tribunals established to decide whether or not a man should be sent to the Front. Several women felt strongly that as a man could not decide to send a woman into battle, it was wrong for a female to decide as the woman's movement stood for equality. Myra succinctly argued that the sex of the Tribunal was indifferent 'provided the spirit animating the deliberations was the same.'
©Museum of London Printed menu for a 'Victory" Dinner' held by the Women's Freedom League on 22 February 1918 to commemorate the passing of the Representation of the People's Act that gave certain women over 30 the right to vote in parliamentary elections. Headed with the logo of the Women's Freedom League the dinner, in keeping with others organised by the WFL, comprised a vegetarian menu in this case with a main course of Lentil cutlets and tomato sauce. The menu has been signed by many of those attending the event including Myra Sadd Brown and Maud Fisher.
Myra was a pacifist and, after the end of World War, I represented the Church League at a Peace Conference held in Manchester. In 1916 the League changed the name of its newspaper to The Coming Day, the new title suggesting 'that we lift our eyes from the black and turgid present to a future of a clear-shining morn.' By 1920 the aim of the newspaper was to provide a platform with 'high aims such as the League of World Friendship' or the Baptist Women's League. Myra was appointed the treasurer. Her financial support of the Federation and the WFL continued alongside her fundraising work for the Russian Relief Fund and her support for a Royal Commission's call to investigate cruelty in asylums. Myra also lent her continuing support to the WFL, often chairing discussions organised by the Hampstead Branch. Myra's eldest daughter, also named Myra, joined the WFL, representing those under thirty years of age giving a talk on the right of university women to share in political affairs; men had the vote at twenty-one, women at thirty. Mother and daughter were part of a deputation that presented the argument for equality of political rights at the House of Commons. Emily, Myra's second daughter, assisted at gatherings of the Hampstead Branch.
The British Commonwealth League was founded during the 1920s to promote equality of liberties, status, and opportunities between men and women and encourage mutual understanding throughout the Commonwealth.' Many of its members were campaigners for women's suffrage. Myra was the League's first treasurer and sat on the Women's Advisory Council of the League of Nations Union as a representative of the British Commonwealth League. In 1928, to raise funds and awareness, she organised an excursion to Crossways, the family home in Essex.
In 1919 the League of Nations was founded. Many women's groups sought to ensure that women had a role to play and, a year later, in 1920, the Council for the Representation of Women in the League of Nations was established with the aim of ensuring women formed part of any British delegation to the League. One of the groups affiliated to the Council was the WFL. The executive of the WFL nominated Myra to be a vice president.
©Museum of London A souvenir menu and programme issued for the Women's Freedom League Victory Breakfast held at the Hotel Cecil on Thursday 5 July 1928, to celebrate the passing of the Equal Franchise Act. On the reverse are signatures of many suffragette prisoners who attended the event including Teresa Bilington Greig, Edith How Martyn, Myra Sadd Brown and Mary Richardson. Included in the breakfast menu were porridge, kippers, fried plaice, eggs and bacon, omelette, boiled eggs, jam marmalade and toast.
On 12 July 1930, Ernest died. The Vote described Ernest as 'a generous friend of the Women's Freedom League (Nine Elms Settlement), and was particularly kind and sympathetic.' Myra continued with her work. Presiding over a WFL event in 1932, she said the League 'pursued a line of continuity and never forsook its ideals…[It] worked with a resolute persistence.' Words that could have been written about Myra herself. In 1933 Myra stood successfully for election to the National Executive Committee of the WFL. In that capacity, she was one of the delegates to the International Alliance of Women for Suffrage and Equal Citizenship held in Istanbul in 1935.
In 1937, while abroad, Myra died. The International Women Suffrage News spoke of Myra's 'constant service to the women's movement' and her 'certain tranquil faith in the rightness of that cause which was an encouragement and inspiration.'
At suffragette dinner in 1939, Myra's daughter, Myra, recollected, as a thirteen-year-old girl, handing out pamphlets on the Commercial Road and visiting her mother in Holloway Prison. 'They did a great thing these women. I am grateful to them.'Two years ago, Myra's granddaughter, Diana, collaborated on a podcast called Your Loving Myra, in which some of the letters between Myra and Ernest are read written during her time in Holloway in 1912 are read. It is well worth a listen https://soundcloud.com/bethmoss/your-loving-myra. Their love and his support for Myra shines out. The LSE library holds poignant letters from Myra's children to her while she was in prison.
Marie Brown was charged with maliciously damaging five plate glass windows the property of the Postmaster General in the Edgeware Road, to the value of £25 during March 1912. She was found not guilty. Marie stated she was forty-two years old, married, from Brighton, Sussex. The following entry is Mary Brown arrested in May 1913. The amnesty record is annotated to reflect that this is an alias used by Edith Hudson, a nurse from Scotland.
At the suggestion of a follower of this blog I have decided to post each person listed as a separate blog. This should hopefully make it easier to locate an individual. If you have any thoughts or opinions do let me know. Any feedback good or bad is valued.
Mrs M Brown was arrested in November 1910 for her part in Black Friday when the charges were dropped. The following entry is Margaret Jane Brown, who is also known as Mary Jane Brown, Mary Jane Tagg, again there is no further identifying information save a file note: ‘Mrs Margaret Brown breaking window Daily Mail. Prosecution refused. Released. It is unclear if these are one and same person, but I have not been able to find out any more.
Ada Broughton is first recorded as involved in the suffrage movement in the Votes for Women newspaper, July 1908. She was arrested in April 1909 for her part in an attempt to deliver a petition to the Prime Minister at the House of Commons; the charge was obstruction. At the trial, it was reported that Ada had rushed at a policeman knocking off his helmet. Ada commented that the Women's Parliament had commissioned her to present a petition, and she intended to do it. She was sentenced to a £10 fine plus a £10 surety to keep the peace for three months or one month in prison. Ada and the other eight defendants avowed to go to prison, but it is not clear whether Ada ultimately did.
Ada was born in Liverpool in 1879, the fourth child of William and Alice. William was, at the time of her birth, a draper. Two more children followed Ada. Ten years later, her father is recorded working as a watch engraver. When she finished school, Ada worked as a municipal cashier.
By 1913 Ada had switched from the WSPU to the Women's Freedom League. She travelled to Paisley in Scotland and established a branch holding several open-air meetings to garner support. She spoke at Gourock in West Scotland and then became the organiser tasked with resurrecting the Dumfermline branch. Ada continued campaigning across Scotland until 1915, when she appears to have moved back to Liverpool, forming the Central Branch of the WFL there. Ada's particular area of expertise was outlining to women their legal and economic position. She was also a campaigner for the Temperance movement, claiming during one speech that where women had the vote, temperance was frequently supported.
By 1917 Ada had moved to Newcastle to support the Cadets of Temperance branch while still being active in the suffrage movement. The following year she moved to Bermondsey, London and became an active member of the local Independent Labour party. In November 1919, she was elected as a Labour member of the Borough Council in Bermondsey; alongside this role, she was also an organiser for the National Federation of Women Workers, a trade union founded in 1906 for women who could not join their own union or were employed in trades not supported by a union. In 1921 it merged with the GMB.
Ada kept her council seat until her death in 1934, when during a visit to Liverpool, she succumbed to scarlet fever. The member of Parliament for Bermondsey and the local Labour party leader both travelled to Liverpool for Ada's funeral.
Alice Ward Brown, or Alice Ward, was arrested on 28th July 1913. One of twenty-four men and women arrested, Alice was charged with obstruction. A meeting of the WSPU and the Men's Federation for Women's Suffrage was held in Trafalgar Square. Sylvia Pankhurst, released under the Cat and Mouse Act, attempted to address the meeting but was forced to flee when the police arrived to re-arrest her. The crowd surged after her, and that is when the arrests took place. Testifying, Alice stated she had been going to Downing Street. Although she did not know why she was going there, she had the right to do so. She was bound over to keep the peace for a year and fined £10. The Museum of London website states that Alice went to prison for five days, either on remand or due to her failure to pay the fine. While there, this surveillance photograph was taken of her:
No further information has been found save for a further entry in the arrest record stating Alice was arrested in November 1913 for failure to present a child for a medical examination.
Amelia Brown was arrested at the Guildhall in the city of London along with Alice Paul. The two had managed to evade the extra security in place ahead of a banquet to be attended by leading politicians by disguising themselves as charwomen. They remained hidden for twelve hours despite constant security sweeps of the building and at least one close shave when a policeman tossed his cape on their feet. They intended to smash a pane as the Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, rose to speak; the broken pane would allow their shouts of votes for women to be heard in the banqueting hall. However, the Lord Mayor spoke and sat down. Believing Asquith would then follow, Amelia broke a pane with her shoe. However, it was not Asquith who rose to his feet but the Lord Mayor of London to propose a toast to the King. She said to the arresting officer 'a political protest,' their intention to confront the Prime Minister, with a stomach pump. Tales of daring-do were included in the press with guests, fireman, and police reported to scrabble over the Guildhall roof to capture the two women who remained standing by the broken pane shouting votes for women. Below, the orchestra struck up to drown them out. Other guests were reportedly showered in shards of glass.
At trial, the two women who were described as 'looking very cold and miserable', it was stated that when they had both been searched, Amelia was found to be in possession of a bottle of milk and Alice the stomach pump they had planned to show Asquith. When Amelia was asked if she had anything to say, she responded, 'I don't see how you can convict me, as I am not recognised by law as being alive.' The Magistrate described Amelia and Alice as 'hysterical creatures' before passing a sentence of a fine of £5 or one month in prison with hard labour.
Amelia was described on arrival at Holloway Prison as 'in good mental and physical health.' She changed into prison clothes without protest and submitted to a medical examination. However, Amelia refused any food. Four days after her admission, she was being subjected to force-feeding twice a day. According to the reports, Amelia participated in exercise and religious worship but refused either to eat or undertake any prison work. Given a spoon, she sharpened the end sufficiently to enable her to write on her cell walls and smashed the inspection glass in her door to allow her to communicate with Alice. On this particular day, she was force-fed twice using the stomach tube. The authorities noted, 'Her resistance was easily overcome. No vomiting after feeding.' Amelia persistently demanded to meet with Gladstone, the Home Secretary, and when the chaplain visited her, she insulted him, making 'irreverent jokes about sacred matters.' The chaplain was advised to curtail his visits.
One report observed that they were 'nice' ladies seeming 'to find methods of enlivening the dullness of prison life.' The authorities responded by withdrawing access to their letters. Amelia was examined by J Hopper Baker, a doctor, before her admission to Holloway Prison, who noted that in his opinion, Amelia's health was not sufficiently robust to survive ordinary prison life, let alone force-feeding. This opinion was damned in an internal memo; 'I cannot think that anyone but a venal and unscrupulous person could have written them.' The doctor's credentials who signed the statements were disputed, stating he had attended three medical schools and his entry in The Medical Directory was cursory. Despite the doctor's opinion, the force-feeding continued.
By 16th November, Amelia had lost two and a half pounds in weight, but 'as she is a stout woman, this is not of any material consequence.' Every day she attended chapel and exercised in the yard. Amelia continued to be disruptive: singing and shouting but conceded to eat normally on Sunday 21st November 'so as to give less trouble' presumably because it was a holy day. The following day Amelia again refused food, complained of a cold and spent part of the day in bed. The Prison Governor considered that there were 'no signs of any serious malady.' The following day, Amelia was again force-fed and when weighed, appeared to have gained weight, meaning that she had only lost one pound thus far. This routine continued without change until 26th November, when it was noted that Amelia drank some milk during the evening, so she was force-fed only in the morning. On and off over the next few days, Amelia took milk, and then a session of force-feeding was omitted. By the end of November, she was reported to have lost two and a half pounds.
A week later, the regime was taking its toll. Amelia was reported to be suffering from indigestion and 'slight sickness,' spending most of her day in bed. Amelia was due for release on 9th December. The day before, she was weighed and was found to have lost four pounds; the report concludes, 'I consider this satisfactory.' The following day Amelia and Alice were released.
Sadly, none of the press coverage gives any more clues to allow Amelia to be traced any further, but her legacy is the enormous amount of press coverage her actions garnered.
23rd November 1911 was the date of the arrest of Catherine Brown for window smashing, for which she was fined forty-five shillings or ten days in prison. The records note that Catherine was born in 1869. Nothing further has been located.
The next entry is Jeanie Brown, born in 1877, arrested on 9th March 1912 and charged with wilful damage, for which she was sentenced to one month with hard labour. The Times, 15th March 1912, explained the difference between hard labour for men and women prisoners. For the latter, it was not 'rigorous hard labour' but worked for between ten and six hours a day. The Times reports the trial for breaking a window at the Home Office of 'a young girl' called Jeanne Brown. At her trial, she said, 'if he [the magistrate] sentenced their leaders, the women would do worse and worse.' These words are credited in the Advertiser to Jennie Brown. The following entry is J C Brown arrested on 9th July 1909, and there the trail runs cold.
Kathleen Brown was arrested for the first time in October 1908. The suffragettes had gathered at Caxton Hall ahead of marching to the Houses of Parliament to deliver a resolution. The police were present in large numbers and managed to keep the women at bay. One, however, presented her card requesting an audience with an MP. When he appeared, she pushed past and entered the Houses of Parliament. Gaining access, she charged into the House of Commons chamber demanding votes for women. Only a few members were participating in the debate, which came to an abrupt halt. Escorted from the premises, the woman with enormous sang froid asked a policeman to hail her a cab which she climbed into and disappeared. Meanwhile, the crowds swelled, and the women were pushed back by mounted police, often coming close to being crushed.
About forty men and women were arrested and charged with assaulting or obstructing the police; Kathleen was among them. She was fined £10 and bound over to keep the peace for a year or, in the alternative, sentenced to twenty-one days in prison. A letter on the files notes that Kathleen's sentence was not a month because the Magistrate believed the 'defendant was quite a girl.' She, along with the sixteen others she was tried with, refused to be bound over and were taken to Holloway Prison. Kathleen was released on 11th November 1908 along with two other suffragettes whom Mr and Mrs Pethick Lawrence greeted.
Kathleen returned to Newcastle upon Tyne, her hometown, the following month. The local branch of the WSPU hosted an At Home where Kathleen was the guest of honour. She was presented with £21, which had been raised by donation, each £1 representing a day in prison. Kathleen handed it to the treasurer and commented that she wished she had been in prison for longer as more monies would have been raised.
In February the following year, Winston Churchill visited Newcastle, and in a carefully orchestrated plan, the suffragettes dogged his every move. Kathleen and Miss Davies entered the banqueting hall, where Churchill was dining, with a megaphone demanding the vote. Kathleen pointed out that men and women paid politician's wages even though they could not vote.
Kathleen was back in London in June and was arrested for her part in another attempt to deliver a petition at the House of Commons. When the women arrived for their court hearing, many carried portmanteaux in readiness for prison and baskets of strawberries to enjoy while they waited. Kathleen was charged with breaking a Privy Council window. Found guilty on 12th July, she was fined £5 and £5 damages or six weeks in prison. Again, she elected to go to prison. Kathleen went on hunger strike in protest at not being accorded a political prisoner's status and allocated to the First Division with privileges. A report on the file states that there were few, if any instances, of men being treated as political prisoners and sent to the First Division: 'It does not appear that … similar privilege has even been given to dynamiters … men who break shop windows in order to draw attention to the unemployed question … Even anti-vaccinationists who are put in Div I by statute … are treated exactly like other prisoners if in the course of their agitation they offend against the ordinary law by assaulting police.'
The Home Secretary, Herbert Gladstone, refused to overturn the Magistrate's decision that the women were not political prisoners. The majority of the women refused to abide by prison regulations. The prison governor described the women as 'mutinous since reception'; they sang, shouted, broke cell windows and waved their sashes through the glassless apertures. Some suffragettes had secured the use of a room in Crayford Road, which abuts the prison from where they addressed the prisoners through a megaphone. Fourteen of the prisoners, including Kathleen, were brought before the prison visiting committee charged with gross misconduct. According to the report, each was examined separately, and each, according to the report, 'admitted the charges and gloried in their offences.' Allegations are made in the report of one wardress being bitten and another being showered in hot cocoa during the proceedings. Throughout the hearing, the women not called loudly sang, banged on walls and rang bells. The report concludes that the committee 'had no difficulty deciding that the prisoners must all be punished and agreed easily as to the amount of punishment', which ranged from ten days to seven days in solitary confinement.
Eight of the women were placed in 'special' cells, one in a 'silent' cell and the rest in cells housed in a wing away from Crayford Road. While their possessions were removed from them, none of the women were searched or forced to wear prison clothing because it was felt it would lead to more confrontation and potential violence. One woman, on release, explained that the 'special cells' were a dank, damp, dungeon of a room with little ventilation with only a slither of light. The bed was a wooden board jutting out from the wall and only at night was a thin mattress provided. The Governor reported that a suffragette band played outside the prison despite the presence of several police officers.
Kathleen was released on 21st July and was reported to have spoken of her hunger strike as 'merely an episode-ended and forgotten.' Dr Ethel Bentham examined Kathleen. Ethel, a suffragist, had been a general practitioner in Newcastle and in 1909 moved to Holland Park, London. She wrote to the Home Secretary that for several days she had been very concerned for Kathleen's health, who was suffering from muscular rheumatism. In such a young person, this was surprising. Kathleen had explained that when she had been confined to a punishment cell, the water vessels had leaked. While the vessels were replaced and Kathleen cleared up the water with what materials came to hand, the area remained damp. Ethel also observed that Kathleen's hair was 'in a terrible state when she was released.' The supplied brush and comb had been totally inadequate, and either they or the bedding 'must have been very unclean, for the hair was in a verminous condition.' The prison staff pointed out that as Kathleen refused to be medically examined, declined medicine or food, 'it is scarcely possible for us to take responsibility regarding [her] health.' The brush, comb and mattress were new, and all other bedding had been freshly laundered. Examination of the cells did not reveal any vermin, which it was suggested may have been picked up at the police cells or court. Equally, no evidence was found of damp or any complaints as to the conditions of the cell. The findings were relayed to Edith, who responded: 'May I say that it is hardly a complete answer to mine.' The Home Office decided not to reply, but the file reveals were sufficiently concerned to commission a report from Arthur Newsholme, a prominent public health expert. Hampered by the lack of specificity as to the nature of the vermin, Arthur provided a detailed analysis of the life cycle of fleas, bugs and lice, commenting that so long as clean clothes and a bath were provided on admission and the cells thoroughly cleaned, it was 'highly improbable that … fleas or bugs' could be acquired. Head lice or body louse broadly followed the same pattern requiring either bodily contact or contaminated clothing.
When Kathleen returned to Newcastle, she was met at Central station by a large crowd of supporters and the Warner Colliery Band. After tea at the Turks Head Hotel, she addressed a crowd at the Haymarket. In March 2017, a plaque was erected on the building, formerly the Turks Head Hotel, in recognition of the suffrage campaign. In October 1909, Lloyd George travelled to Newcastle to speak at the Palace Theatre in the Haymarket; tickets to the event were printed with 'Not to be sold to a woman.' There was a massive police presence to prevent any suffragette demonstration. The Governor at Newcastle Prison subsequently reported that he believed the women had arrived in the town in force to get arrested and swamp the prison staff deliberately, the suffragettes appearing to be aware of the staffing levels. In his opinion, they failed in their objective, beyond getting arrested, but felt that it was a tactic likely to be repeated.
Among the eleven arrested were: Constance Lytton, Emily Davison, Winifred Jones, Jane Brailsford (see earlier blog), Dorothy Pethick, Miss Pitman, Kitty Marion and Kathleen, who was charged with wilful damage by breaking a window of the Post Office in Pink Lane. Bail was refused. While the women were awaiting jail, the Prison Governor assured the Home Office that they were 'allowed reasonable facilities for communicating with and interviewing their friends, and obtaining meals and bedding outside.' In court, Kathleen said: 'We demand the franchise.' Found guilty, Kathleen was sentenced to one month with hard labour.
On admission to prison, the women refused to eat. On 14th October, a visit was paid to ascertain whether or not forcible feeding was 'immediately necessary.' Kathleen's condition was described as 'fair, but she has a slight but marked murmur over the cardiac region', which was believed 'not to be indicative of organic disease' although this could not be said with certainty. In addition, both Kathleen, her friends and her medical adviser asserted she had a history of heart problems which led the report to recommend that force-feeding was not undertaken as any resistant to the process could risk her health. In consequence, release the following day was recommended. A telegram sent the same day as the report agreed to Kathleen's immediate release.
Kathleen was born in 1886 to Joseph, a clerk in the railway accounts department, and Margaret. At the time of her birth, the family lived in the village of Greenside to the west of Gateshead. Kathleen had two younger sisters, Nora, born in 1890 and Sydney, born in 1893. By the time of Sydney's birth, the family had moved to the village of Ovingham, to the east of Hexham. When the 1911 census was taken, the family lived at 88 Elswick Avenue, Newcastle upon Tyne. Kathleen, however, was staying in Dewsbury and is recorded as working as a registration officer at the local Labour Exchange.
In 1919 Kathleen married Donald Fraser. The couple lived abroad following their marriage, ultimately settling in Devon. They had four children. Kathleen died in 1973.
The next entry states Helen Briddle arrested on 14 February 1907, charged with obstruction and fined 10 shillings or one week in prison. It is noted that Helen came from Liscard, part of Wallasey town. There the trail goes cold. Other newspapers report a Mrs Ella Briddle rather than a 'Helen', but again no trace has been found.
The next entry is Annie Briggs, who, when arrested, stated she was born in 1864 in Rochdale and gave her occupation as a housekeeper. The arrest record states that Annie was arrested twice in 1911 and 1913. The official records also state that a Annie Briggs was arrested in 1907. However, it is possible that these are not the same people. Whatever the case, while the charge in 1907 remains unknown, the fine was 20 shillings or fourteen days in prison.
Four years later, Annie was charged with throwing a stone at Parliament Chambers in Great Smith Street. She was sentenced to twenty-one days in prison. The next arrest was during April 1913, when she was remanded for a week for malicious damage to thirteen paintings in the Manchester Art gallery. An account of the events and Annie's acquittal can be found at https://radicalmanchester.wordpress.com/2011/11/21/the-suffragette-attack-on-manchester-art-gallery-april-1913/. A picture of Annie can be seen at https://www.flickr.com/photos/manchesterarchiveplus/6891425369. Nothing further about her life has been found.
One of the tactics of the WSPU from 1907 onwards was to hold a Women's Parliament at the beginning of each Parliamentary session. The King's Speech was on 12 February 1907, and the following day the women held their own session followed by a march to the Houses of Parliament to present a petition to the Prime Minister. After speeches, about four hundred women, led by Charlotte Despard, set off for Westminster, where they were greeted by flanks of police determined to halt their progress. The women were not for turning, and they resolutely attempted repeatedly to progress. About fourteen women made it to the Lobby, but all were immediately arrested. Another fifty women were arrested outside, including Florence Bright. In court, Florence, charged with disorderly conduct, questioned the police constable's evidence, which a second officer substantiated to her shock. Florence observed that such testimony was 'dreadful to the dock'. Bringing out the mounted police had been 'dreadful' but being used to horses, Florence testified that she had grabbed the bridle turning the horse from her, at which point she was arrested. She was sentenced to fourteen days in prison.
Several newspapers reported that Florence was the first authoress to go to prison. By the time of her sentence, she had written The Vision Splendid published in 1899 and co-written with Robert Machray, a fellow author and for a year the editor of the Daily Mail, the Girl Capitalist and One Pretty Pilgrim's Progress. In 1907 Florence followed her earlier success with the publication of An Outsider's View of the Women's Movement.
Ten years later, she gave her name to a promotional advertisement for Sanatogen, writing that a course of the medicine had cured her nervous debility.
Florence Katherine Bright was born in 1862; although her middle name was registered at birth as Catherine, she usually spelt it with a 'K'. Her parents were George and Jennie, and she had an elder sister, Eva, who was born in 1860. Their father had served in the Fifth Royal Irish Lancers, followed by a time as a war correspondent for the Times. Although when Eva was born, her baptism record records George's occupation as a merchant. Nine years later, the 1871 census notes his occupation as a public accountant. Florence was educated, at least in part, at boarding school. Her sister, Eva, was reported to have been one of the first women admitted to Newnham College, Cambridge. Both sisters pursued careers as authors and journalists.
In 1911 Eva emigrated to Perth, Australia. The sisters collaborated on a play, 'That Betty, ' staged in Australia. Their mother lived with Florence in later life; her obituary, February 1924, poignantly records that due to caring obligations, Florence had been able only to write little but intended to resume now. Florence also expressed the hope that 'That Betty' would be staged in London. By the following year, Florence, a vivisectionist, hosted an At Home at the Hall in Temple Fortune, North London, to raise funds for Animal Welfare week when she acted and recited a poem written for her by Eva.
Throughout the years, Florence remained in touch with the suffragette movement attending events of the Suffragette Fellowship alongside Edith How-Martyn, with whom it is believed she formed the Suffrage Club. She was amongst the mourners at the funeral of another suffragette, Dora Montefiore. Eva died in Perth in 1933, survived by four daughters, but her only son had been killed only weeks before the end of the First World War. Florence died in 1943.
John Angell James Brindley, named after a nonconformist clergyman and writer, was born in 1860 to Richard, an independent minister, and Mary. John was born in Bath, Somerset, but by the time James was eleven, the family, including two younger siblings Ruth and Thomas, had moved St Paul's Road, Islington, North London. Their father, Richard, had passed away, probably explaining the move. Ten years later, the family had moved again to Highbury Park, still in Islington. John, aged twenty-one, was employed as a ship owner's clerk, but by 1891 John had set himself up as a painter; the census specifically records an artist in black and white. He still lived with his mother and brother, but again they have moved this time to Baalbec Road in Islington.
John painted landscapes primarily and up until 1909 exhibited at numerous galleries and
exhibitions, including the Royal Academy
and the Goupil Gallery. He also in 1893 in part illustrated The Tragedy of the Norse Gods by Ruth J Pitt.
In 1899 John married Maud Mary Eadon. Maud, like John, campaigned for suffrage; he was arrested once in 1909, whereas she was arrested five times between 1908 and 1913.
Maud was born in 1860, the daughter of Frank and Anna Maria, while the family were living in Carlisle, Cumberland. By the census the following year, her father Frank, a captain in the militia, his wife and baby daughter were lodging with Anna's brother in the Parsonage in Snaith, East Yorkshire. By the 1871 census, the family numbers had swelled with the addition of three sons and a daughter. While Anna and her brood are living in the village of Heslington to the south-east of York, Frank was lodging in Cumbria in connection with his service as a captain of the militia. By 1881 Frank had retired. The family settled in the White House in the village of Fulford on the outskirts of York. After another decade, the family had moved back to Snaith, the village where both Frank and Anna had been born.
Following their marriage, Maud and John settled in Hampstead. On the census return for 1901, both are stated to be artists and painters. Maud's father had always left the occupation blank for his daughters, and, interestingly, marriage legitimised what her father possibly viewed as a genteel hobby, as a profession. Both Maud and John became members of the Hampstead Art Society and entered their pictures for exhibitions. In one, they both exhibited depictions of Corfe Castle. John's was described as painted 'in a fine decorative manner', and Maud's as 'good direct work.'
This blog is a break from the usual alphabetical approach. A recent edition of the Times reported on the fundraising by the Mary Clarke Statue Appeal. This research had already been completed but not posted and I thought it would be a good moment to publish to add to the knowledge of her contribution to the suffrage movement.
May or Mary Clarke was arrested three times between 1908 and 1910. Mary Jane Goulden was born in 1862 to Richard and Sophia. One of eleven children: six sons and five daughters, Emmeline, later Pankhurst, was her eldest sister born four years earlier. Rachel Holmes in her far-reaching and excellent, recently published biography, of Sylvia Pankhurst, observes that Mary was Emmeline's favourite sister. Both of their parents were socially and politically active. By the time, Mary was nine; the family had moved to Seedley, part of the Salford where her father ran a printing firm employing over two hundred and fifty people. Although, forward-thinking her parents set little store by girl's education. Mary attended Seedley Castle School, passing the Government Art Examinations in 1877.
Emmeline, by now married with four children, moved to London in 1886 and Mary joined them. The two sisters opened art furnishers and decorators, Emerson & Co, which opened in Regent Street in its final incarnation. Alongside retailing furniture and soft furnishings, they offered art classes. In time for Christmas 1890, they printed and distributed a trade catalogue explaining their reasons for embarking on 'the tempestuous billows of commerce' their primary line being white furniture which the purchaser could decorate themselves. Trade, however, was not brisk and by 1893 the shop closed. Emmeline's husband had already returned to the northwest, and the family and Mary followed. Mary began teaching dressmaking.
Two years later Mary married John Clarke – the 1901 census describes his occupation as a credit draper working for himself. The couple settled in Camberwell in the south of London. It did not turn out to be a happy union. Rachel Holmes writes that John was abusive, and, on at least one occasion, Sylvia rescued her aunt. By 1904 Mary had fled for good returning to the north of England joining Emmeline to fight for women's votes.
On June 21st 1908 the WSPU organised Women's Sunday – a suffragette march followed by a rally in Hyde Park to raise awareness of the cause. It was estimated that half a million people attended. Women wore white dresses embellished with the suffragette colours. Within the environs of the park, the speakers were allocated to platforms. Mary was assigned to platform 1 alongside Georgina Brackenbury, Nancy Lightman and Mrs Morris, a health visitor from Manchester.
Mary was first arrested the following month. Many campaigners gathered at Caxton Hall. After several resounding speeches led by Emmeline, they marched towards the House of Commons headed by a small group led by Emmeline who wished to present a petition to Herbert Asquith. Mary was one of twenty-nine women arrested. Emmeline and Sylvia attended the court at Bow Street when Mary and all but two of her fellow arrestees were brought before the courts. Found guilty Mary was ordered to pay a fine or face one month in prison. All elected to go to prison. There are no reports of Mary's first time in prison in the official files online.
Mary and fourteen fellow prisoners were released from Holloway prison at the end of July. A large crowd greeted the women along with a brass band and a hefty police presence. The women travelled to central London for a welcome breakfast. Several spoke during the meal, including Mary, who observed how much she would miss the women she had left behind in prison.
During February 1909 Mary was arrested for a second time alongside Lucy Norris. The two went to Downing Street to try and have a meeting with Asquith. They repeatedly knocked on the door despite being informed he was away. Eventually, the police intervened arresting the two women. Charged with obstruction, the court found them guilty. As before Mary refused to pay the fine and was sent to prison for one month. Ada, her sister, wrote to the governor of Holloway Prison, requesting a visit to discuss a family matter – permission was granted. From prison Mary wrote a letter which was published in Votes for Women:
'Before we are set free, the Women's Parliament, which meets in Caxton Hall on February 24th will be over. I know our comrades will on that day do their duty as we have tried to do ours. Let our motto be 'Never let I dare not wait upon I would.'
In July 1910 Mary again addressed a suffragette rally in Hyde Park from platform 16 speaking alongside Dr Christine Murrell who in 1924 was the first woman appointed to the British Medical Association Council and the Honourable Mrs Haverfield. While organising the Brighton branch, Mary lived with Minnie Turner at Seaview, 13 Victoria Street. Minnie ran the house as a holiday bed and breakfast, a facility suffragettes availed themselves of to rest and recuperate. During September Mary arrived in St Leonards ahead of a visit by Emmeline Pethick Lawrence. To advertise the event, a parade was organised. Several women gathered in their carriages, one sporting a banner which read 'Women's Suffrage Propaganda League,' others were on foot. Elsie Bowerman headed the procession. She and the other women carried banners with messages such as 'No surrender' and Face to the Dawn.' Mary accompanied Mrs Darent Harrison, a member of the Tax Resistance League, in her carriage. The local newspaper reported that during the town's circuit, which took an hour and a half, there were few outbursts against their cause.
The following week the well-publicised meeting was held at the Royal Concert Hall. Before this, Emmeline and Christabel visited Mary, who was staying in the town. The Hon Mrs Haverfield whom Mary had occupied a platform alongside in Hyde Park chaired the meeting supported by Emmeline Pethick Lawrence and Mary who moved a motion in support of the Woman Suffrage Bill.
Mary was arrested again during November alongside Greta Allen, Laura Armstrong, Gennie Ball and Grace Chappelow (see earlier blogs) and charged causing criminal damage by stone-throwing. Emmeline requested to see Mary at Cannon Row Police Station. When the visit was denied, Mary broke a window. She was sentenced to a month in gaol.
Mary telegrammed the WSPU branch in Brighton 'I am glad to pay the price for freedom.' She was released on December 23rd. A welcome home lunch was held in her honour at the Criterion restaurant.
Mary spent Christmas Day with Herbert and his family at their home in Winchmore Hill. Sadly, Mary passed away during the evening. She was buried at Southgate Cemetery. One observer wrote 'Without approaching her sister's power as an orator, she did an immense amount of splendid service, and she was the leader of the women's franchise movement in Brighton.'
The January 6th 1911 edition of Votes for Women includes a memoir written by Emmeline entitled The Utmost for the Highest. She recollects being in Holloway prison at the same time as Mary was first imprisoned, describing her as a 'Prisoner of Hope' with her' extreme patience' and 'extreme gentleness.' Emmeline writes that Mary had been ill before she travelled to London to stand in solidarity with the women who had been ill-treated on Black Friday by throwing a stone to get herself arrested.
It has been widely written over the years that Mary was force-fed during her final time in prison. In her tribute, Emmeline alludes to the procedure but does not directly assert that Mary was subjected. The official files online are blank which, perhaps, in itself speaks volumes.
the link to the appeal in Brighton to raise funds to erect a statue in her memory. https://maryclarkestatue.com/
Bertha Brewster was born in 1887 to George and Bertha who lived in the village of Henfield, near Horsham in West Sussex. Two years after Bertha was born, the family was completed with the arrival of a brother, Philip. Brother and sister attended the progressive boarding school, Bedales, presumably as day pupils as the 1901 census records the family living in Steep, Hampshire, the village location of the school. Founded in 1898 by John Haden Badley, its foundation was in part at the urging of his wife, Amy a suffragette and cousin of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Millicent Fawcett. Bertha was academic and in 1905 was one of the first two girls to leave school to attend London University although no record has been located of her graduating.
The first indication of Bertha’s involvement in the suffrage movement is a donation to the fundraising £20,000 appeal to which her mother also donated. By 1909 the family had moved to Osmonds, a substantial country house located between Droitwich and Ombersley in Worcestershire. In August 1909 Bertha was arrested for the first time. A group of suffragettes had rented a house adjacent but separated from Sun Hall in Liverpool by a narrow passage for when Richard Haldane, a Liberal member of Parliament and the Secretary of State for War came to speak. When the meeting started, one climbed onto the roof while another addressed the gathering crowd. According to the press reports, slates and other missiles were thrown from the roof of the house at the gallery windows of the hall forcing Haldane to interrupt his speech. Bertha was sentenced to one month in prison, not the two months her fellow participants received. Bertha protested at the leniency of her sentence which she served at Walton Gaol. Votes for Women reported that on the way to the gaol the women sang the Marseillaise and managed to push through an opening in the roof of the prison van a flag, which had they had smuggled in, which read Votes for Women.
The lack of recognition as political prisoners led the women to go on a hunger strike before their trials. Sentenced on 24 August, by which stage they had been on hunger strike for three days, the women were released two days later. Their treatment prompted questions in the House of Commons. The Home Office gathered information regarding the force-feeding of other categories of prisoner. A report from Parkhurst Prison reported that in three years sixteen were force-fed; three of whom were classified as insane. The majority were fed for short periods, but several were fed for longer. One was subjected to the procedure over two years, another for over year who became so familiar with the process he inserted the tube himself. The report makes for chilling reading. The process is described in detail: a soft rubber tube passed into the stomach through which a hospital diet of grated or pulped ‘meat or fish, pudding, potatoes, cabbage and bread’ mixed with ‘eggs and milk or beef tea’ was poured via a funnel. The process took if there was no resistance a couple of minutes. The use of a nasal tube, in the alternative, disposed of the need to use a gag but less nutritious food only could be administered.
Following their release, the women were charged with willful damage at the prison where they had allegedly smashed windows. Bertha was charged with damaging fifteen panes in her cell valued at 3 shillings and 9 pence. In response, the women contended that they had been punished for their actions while in prison and all that remained to be settled was a payment for the damage. However, the authorities argued that because Bertha was ill due to refusing food, she had been too weak to be punished. The summonses for arrest were issued in September over a month after the incident took place. While Bertha remained at large, a court hearing took place in October. Bertha’s mother instructed a barrister to defend Bertha and pay any damages. The judge refused to hear the barrister ordering the issuing of a warrant for her arrest.
The Bedales Chronicle, following Bertha’s imprisonment, commented ‘May it go down to posterity side by side with Franklin’s discovery of Sodium, and the imprisonment of Bertha Brewster - our suffragette- for stone throwing.’ The following issue of the Chronicle published a letter from ‘G.J.’, who took issue with the celebration of criminal activity, his missive closed ‘...to get the vote, use one’s influence quietly is my method.’ Bertha had been cast as the leading lady in a performance of Ibsen’s Love’s Comedy to be performed by alumni of Bedales. The Chronicle reported that while Bertha was in the audience, her part was taken by another actor as it was felt if she appeared, she might be arrested as the warrant was still out for her detainment.
In January 1910, Bertha and Emily Hudson gained access to the roof space above Louth Hall, Lincolnshire, where Lloyd George was due to speak. During their sojourn in the roof, they survived on German black bread, hard-boiled eggs and chocolate. When Lloyd George rose to speak, they began to shout. He responded by observing ‘I see some bats have got into the roof - Well let them squeal; it doesn’t matter’, dismissing their actions as ‘silly tactics.’ When the two women appeared in court, they were cautioned. While in the cells Brenda wrote on the walls ‘Most welcome bondage, for thou art a way I think to Liberty.’
A few weeks later, Bertha was arrested and back in Liverpool to answer the charges of wilful damage at Walton Gaol. She was sentenced on 21 January to six weeks with hard labour. Just before she entered prison, she handed over 5 shillings ‘Because I cannot work in the election.’ The WSPU organised a well-attended protest meeting outside the prison, a few days later. In London, the treasurer of the WSPU, Mrs Pethick Lawrence, spoke of the unjustness of the sentence comparing it to the 5 shillings fine metered out to a man who had attacked and knocked down a woman holding a baby.
The decision to prosecute was intended to deter other such prisoners from damaging prison property. A memo, on the files, makes it clear that the sentences were viewed by the Home Office as ‘unnecessarily severe’ and it was feared that as Bertha went on hunger strike, she would have to be released early. A letter was written to the judge who had tried the case requesting his support in showing clemency by agreeing to release Bertha after three weeks.
Bertha went on hunger strike and appealed against her sentence. On 30 January she was released on bail of £40 having refused food for six days. It was noted that Bertha was released into the care of her mother and took a meal before she left the prison. Interviewed by Votes for Women Bertha described the process of force-feeding using a tube and steel gag. On each occasion, she resisted necessitating her to be forcibly restrained by tying her down. Once she barricaded herself in her cell, and it took a considerable time to extract her. For this, she was given three days close confinement in a punishment cell. Part of this sentence was remitted, and Bertha was returned for another attempt at force-feeding; the table on which she had been tied initially was replaced by a chair. In February the Home Secretary, Herbert Gladstone, pardoned and remitted the balance of the sentence and therefore Bertha withdrew her appeal. Bertha received the WSPU medal for valour.
Following her release, Bertha spoke of her experiences at WSPU events. During a carefully orchestrated procession in July 1910, Bertha was the banner captain of the group, which rallied at Cleopatra’s Needle on the Thames embankment, leading a group from the Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage and four other groups. On 18 November 1910 Bertha was arrested for her part in Black Friday when over three hundred women marched on the Houses of Parliament. Asquith had made an election pledge of a Conciliation Bill which would have granted some women the vote. When the Liberals won the general election, a committee proposed legislation which would have seen around a million women obtaining the vote. Although it received the support of the House of Commons Asquith halted its progress by refusing to allow its passage any more Parliamentary time. A dispute between the House of Commons and the House of Lords saw Asquith call on 18 November a general election which dissolved Parliament from 28 November. The WSPU were outraged and marched to Parliament in protest. Many women were injured. Winston Churchill, the Home Secretary, announced that ‘on this occasion no public advantage would be gained by proceeding with the prosecution.’ Bertha participated in the inquiry conducted by Henry Brailsford and Jessie Murray. She reported ‘both arms were very much bruised for over three weeks … I could hardly walk upstairs…the Black Heath policemen were dreadfully rough and cruel … and lifted me right up and flung me as hard as they could many times..’
Bertha supported the protest that saw women refuse to pay tax, as they did not have the vote, under the auspices of the Women’s Tax Resistance League. Her refusal to pay the Inhabited House Duty saw the authorities seize a carriage clock to be sold at auction to raise the taxes she owed. At each sale, a crowd of women would attend to protest. On this occasion, in an attempt to outwit the women, the only auction lot was Bertha’s carriage clock. A crowd of women gathered both inside and outside the auction room. The auctioneer mounted the podium and opened the bidding and then without a single bid being made turned to a man in the corner of the room handed him the clock and received in return twenty-one shillings. Uproar ensued. The auctioneer found himself surrounded by angry woman. The police had to come to the aid of the auctioneer who then retrieved the clock from the man and started the auction again. As the women had initially intended it was resold to one of their own. The auctioneer departed, and the women used the auction room to make speeches and accepted an apology from the man who had originally bought it.
Documents gathered collected and collated following a raid on the WSPU offices sheds light on Bertha’s mother’s involvement with the union. In 1908 Bertha’s mother joined the union and went on to be the secretary of the Ombersley branch distributing copies of the Vote. After Bertha’s release from Liverpool the WSPU wrote to her mother: ‘You have already given so very much through your dear daughter whose devotion and courage has been proved again and again.’
In November 1911 Bertha was arrested for breaking two windows at the National Liberal Club valued at 20 shillings. She was fined £5 or twenty-one days in prison. It is unclear whether she went to prison or not as there is no record of either her internment or release. In May the following year, Bertha wrote to the press regarding the treatment of women in prison. She argued that by not according them the status of political prisoners, the government were harming their own argument. Few she felt would question the length of sentences metered out if the women’s treatment in prison was the same as criminals.
A few weeks later Bertha was arrested for breaking windows at Rayleigh Post Office. She was fined £5 or one month imprisonment. A lady in court paid the fine. Bertha continued to raise awareness of the cause in a series of letters to the press. Her most widely publicised letter and the one which is most remembered today was published in the Daily Telegraph on 26 February 1913:
Everyone seems to agree upon the necessity of putting a stop to Suffragist outrages; but no one seems certain how to do so. There are two, and only two, ways in which this can be done. Both will be effectual.
On the 6 February 1914, the United Suffragists was formed by former members of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies and the WSPU. While the latter stopped campaigning during World War I the United Suffragists continued taking over Votes for Women as their newspaper. Bertha became an active member joining the governing committee and playing a pivotal role in founding a branch in Birmingham. The same year her brother, Philip a conscientious objector married a fellow suffragette, Clara Giveen. Throughout the war, Bertha continued to campaign and keep the issue in the spotlight. In one issue of Votes for Women, 3 August 1917, she penned an erudite essay on why Jane Austen should be regarded as a feminist.
When success was achieved, Bertha penned the following poem:
The Passing of the Grille
On Anti’s all, do you recall the days that once you knew,
When you were the majority, and the Suffragists were few?
When women all were womanly, and men were really male,
And bipeds clamouring for votes were promptly put in jail?
When the female of the species was made to know her place,
And hidden in the gallery with bars before her face?
But now all that is at an end, she’ll sit where she’s a will,
For the House has just consented to removal of the grille.
That prehistoric state of things has gone without a doubt;
The Suffragist is everywhere; you cannot keep her out;
The Anti’s ranks are getting thin; their day is nearly done;
Their prominent supporters are converted one by one;
Six million soon will vote and worst - and final blow!
The House will never be again the House they used to know,
For every night in future the gallery will fill
With those who hitherto have scorned to cower behind the grille.
In August 1918, Bertha was campaigning for men like her brother Philip, a conscientious objector. She suggested writing in protest to the Home Secretary at the release of the objectors after the end of their sentence and their prompt re-arrest on the same charge. A step which was contrary to a pledge Lord Derby had made the previous year in the House of Lords. In addition, she was fundraising for the Save the Children Fund, formed to raise monies for the starving children of Germany and Austria whose suffering was caused by the blockade of Germany by the Allies. After the end of the war, Bertha turned her attention to supporting the Labour Party raising funds to fight elections.
Bertha ultimately settled in the village of Weobley in Herefordshire and died in France in 1959.
Edith Annie Bremner was born May 1881 in Weymouth, Dorset. Her father, John, was a paymaster in the Royal Naval, he and his wife, Annie, had seven children; five of whom survived to adulthood. Edith’s father died in 1896 while serving with the Royal Navy in Hong Kong. At the time of the 1901 census was taken, Edith was living with her mother and sister, Hilda, in Alverstoke, Hampshire; the sisters were working as governesses.
By 1908 Edith had joined the Women’s Freedom League spearheaded by Charlotte Despard. The Women’s Franchise newspaper lists Edith has one of the leading participants at various rallies across London during the summer of 1908. In October of the same year, Edith was arrested and charged with obstruction in connection with an attempt to gain access to the House of Commons. Fifteen arrests were made, fourteen women and one man. All were taken to Cannon Row Police station and were released on bail, Charlotte Despard standing as surety. Their actions were part of a larger protest - Muriel Matters and Helen Fox persuaded two Members of Parliament to assist them in gaining admission to the Ladies Gallery. Both women chained themselves to the grille of the gallery and began to address the House of Commons on the subject of women’ suffrage. At the same time, a man had entered the Strangers’ Gallery from where he shouted: ‘I am a man and I protest against the injustice to women.’ Outside members of the Women’s Freedom League had gathered. Two gained entrance to the lobby of the House of Commons, while another climbed the plinth of the statue of Richard I and began to address the gathering crowd. It took some time for the police and Parliamentary attendants to regain order.
At their trial all the women sported the colours of the League and passed their time, before the hearing started, making rosettes. The actions at the House of Commons were described as ‘one of the most disorderly and disgraceful scenes that had occurred in the last few years’ in connection with the suffrage movement. Edith was fined £5 or an alternative of a month in gaol. Refusing to pay the fine Edith was sent to Holloway Prison. She was released on 28 November. The League organised a celebration to mark the ‘red-letter day’ of the women’s release. Greeted at the gates of Holloway Prison, the women processed to breakfast at the Cottage Tea Rooms in the Strand. This was followed by a rally in Trafalgar Square and an evening reception at Morley Hall near Hanover Square.
Following her release, Edith joined in supporting the League at a variety of gatherings during December, often talking of her prison experience. The League mounted a silent siege at the gates to the House of Commons. The vigil lasted for over forty-four hours; one participant was Edith. She also continued throughout the year to address meetings and rallies. By the beginning of 1910, Edith was in Wales organising the North Monmouthshire branch of the League. The country was in the grip of a General Election campaign, and North Monmouthshire was significant as it was the seat of the future Home Secretary, Reginald Mckenna. In a report to the Women’s Franchise newspaper Edith recounts the difficulties of gaining a short-term tenancy of a vacant shop in Pontypool and how ‘slowly but surely we have won our way’ gaining permission from the council to hold meetings at the Cattle Market. She describes walking through the streets to the market in ‘drizzling rain’ to find the platform and that light had not been delivered. Undaunted Edith mounted a wall, only for a ‘sudden terrific squall’ to hit through which she addressed the small crowd for twenty minutes observing the polite tolerance with which she was received ‘even if they do not agree with us.’ Charlotte Despard joined Edith in Wales addressing a meeting in Blaenavon. Although Mckenna was re-elected, his percentage of the vote was slightly reduced and, as Edith observed, the numbers voting had increased significantly.
Edith travelled to East Fife, the seat of the Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith. The day before the poll the League adopted the tactic of following him in a car from meeting to meeting ensuring that ‘the green, white and gold fluttered behind the English Czar’s car.’ The women attempted to ask questions about the vote at each meeting, ‘now to questioning was added a policy of dogging and protest.’ The whole area was covered in posters. At the County Building, around three thousand turned up to hear Edith, Marguerite Sidley and Anna Munro speak. Asquith was returned as the Member of Parliament for East Fife but as the result was declared many shouted out ‘Votes for Women.’
Shortly afterwards Edith was made the organising secretary for Ireland, a country dear to the heart of the President of the League, Charlotte Despard. After a few months Edith, based in Southsea, was heading the campaign in Portsmouth proposing to hold meetings three times a week. On 18 June 1910, a suffrage march was organised which processed from the Embankment to the Albert Hall. The women were divided into groups from university women to an international section. Edith was in the group of women who had been imprisoned once. Not unexpectedly Edith does not appear on the 1911 census. Edith continued to be involved with the Portsmouth branch agreeing to address an open-air meeting during June 1912. Unfortunately, heavy rain brought the meeting to a halt before Edith had spoken. It was reconvened the following day. As Edith spoke a man in the crowd challenged her to a debate with ‘an Anti lady’, a duel Edith promptly accepted. Held the following week, not unsurprisingly, the Vote declared that Edith clearly was the victor.
It appears that by 1913 Ethel had possibly switched allegiance to the Church League for Women’s Suffrage and had also been elected to the executive of the National Union of Clerks. Both of which are areas for further research.
By 1939 Ethel is living in Battle, Sussex, employed as a secretary. She died in 1962 aged eighty.