Sarah Bennett and others
The next entry on the amnesty record is May Bellinghurst arrested in November 1911. This entry actually relates to Rosa May Billinghurst, and she will be discussed in a later blog.
Blanche Bennett, noted as born in 1873 and of Belfast, was arrested on 5 March 1912 for, along with Mary Nesbit, breaking two glass panels at the Baker Street post office. Mary, who was reported to say, to the arresting police officer, that it had taken a good deal of courage, and she would never do it again, was sentenced to two months while Blanche, who did not appear to have expressed any remorse, was handed the same sentence but with hard labour.Blanche was the Honorary Secretary of the Irish Women’s Suffrage Society based in Belfast. No further information has been uncovered.
Dorothy Bennett gave her address as Clement’s Inn, the WSPU headquarters. She was arrested in November 1911 and sentenced to seven days for breaking a window at the Board of Trade. No further information as so far been found.
 HO 144/1193/220196-1to233
 DPP 1/19 HO 144/1193/220196-1to233
 Irish Citizen 24 August 1912
 DPP 1/23
The next on the list is Sarah Bennett, who used the aliases Susan Burnton and Mary Gray. The list records that she was arrested seven times. Born in 1850 in the New Forest to James and Rebeca Bennett she was baptised Sarah Charlotte. Her father was a mariner and away from home for long periods. Sarah was the fourth of seven children. In 1873 her mother died, and Sarah moved north to Burslem in the Potteries which was the address she gave when she was elected treasurer of the Women’s Freedom League in 1909.Sarah worked to improve the lot of the workers in the Staffordshire Potteries campaigning to prevent the use of lead glaze in the production of pottery.
The first arrest in March 1907 was for her part in the demonstration attempting to enter the House of Commons. Sarah was charged with obstructing the police; helpfully defined by a policeman as attempting to force your way through a cordon. This Sarah had done while clutching a piece of paper relevant to suffrage, linking arms with the other women. The policeman concerned said he had been forced back by Sarah’s actions but had not been hurt. She was fined £1 or fourteen days in prison.
Sarah was arrested for a second time in January 1908 by which time she was in her late fifties. A newspaper report states: “an elderly person.” The charge this time was disorderly behaviour and resisting the police. Sarah had been standing outside the home of the Scottish Secretary for State addressing a crowd when the police intervened. On the way to the police station Kathleen Crummey took the hand of Sarah and of the policeman, announcing that if they took Sarah, they could take her as well. The magistrate, during the hearing, felt that Sarah needed to be medically examined. She retorted “I am not insane.” To which the magistrate responded that she was clearly not, but there was such a thing as “hysteria and being out of health.” Sarah firmly reiterated that there was nothing wrong with her at all. The magistrate stated that if that was the case that removed any excuse at all and sentenced her to pay a fine of 40 shillings or twenty-one days in prison. Sarah refused to pay. Kathleen was admonished and told she was like a repentant child who should return to her husband and children.One report provides an insight into the numbers involved. From 1 January 1908 to 20 February, seventy-two were imprisoned, of which sixteen were released on a promise of good behaviour, five served their full sentences, three paid or had their fines paid, and forty-eight remained inside. When Sarah arrived at Holloway, she was allocated to the Third Division in the absence of an order from the magistrate sending her to the Second Division. Questions were asked about not only Sarah’s treatment but also several other women sentenced at the same time. A draft letter on the file draws the magistrate’s attention to a circular prepared in 1899 and to another of 1906 which set out the approach to be taken when deciding to which Division a prisoner should be sent, ‘the class of prisoners who should be assigned to the Second and Third Division.’ The author of the letter writes that Gladstone thought that Sarah ‘appear [s] clearly to belong to the class for whom the Second Division was intended.’ The magistrate made the requisite ruling, and Sarah was moved to the Second Division. A draft letter regarding the similar treatment of two other suffragettes mentions ‘these ladies’ which has been crossed out and replaced with ‘they.’
Sarah was a member of the Women’s Freedom League formed in 1907 by a breakaway group from the WSPU. Initially, Charlotte Despard was the treasurer but when she was appointed President in 1909 Sarah was elected in her place. In that role in July Sarah was part of a delegation headed by Charlotte Despard who visited the Home Secretary to present a petition. The following year Sarah was accused of also being a member of the WSPU, her defence at the Annual Conference was given short shrift by the members of the Women’s Freedom League, and she resigned. Sarah, who had by then moved to Finchley, North London, was arrested for her part in Black Friday and like many others, the charge of obstruction was discharged.In May 1912 Emmeline Pankhurst, Frederick and Emmeline Pethick Lawrence were charged with conspiring with Christabel Pankhurst to maliciously cause damage and inciting others to do the same. One of the persons they were alleged to have incited was Sarah who had been witnessed throwing a stone at the window of the Aerated Bread Company. At the trial, a police officer stated that having failed to break a window at her first target Sarah had then thrown a stone at the next-door premises occupied by the London and North Western Railway Company successfully breaking a ground floor window. The officer recovered two stones from the scene. One, of the exhibits at their trial, was a bag with three stones inside found on Sarah when she was arrested. The manager of the London and North Western Railway said that the window measured nine feet by six feet and it had been totally replaced at a cost of 10 guineas. Sarah was sentenced to two months imprisonment in Holloway.In March 1912 Sarah was charged with breaking two windows in Regent Street valued at just over £4. She was sentenced to three months hard labour. Sarah served forty-three days of her sentence. On release, her health was described as ‘indifferent’. The reason given for releasing her early was her age and atheroma, heart disease. Sarah had refused food but was not force-fed.
In February 1913 Sarah took part in the window-smashing campaign breaking windows at Selfridges to the value of £160, she was sentenced to six months hard labour alongside Edith Warwick Bell [see earlier blog]. Her response was to inform the judge that she had been part of the suffrage march from Edinburgh to London in October 1912. Presumably, the comment was intended to make the judge realise she was a tough, resilient woman. The march arrived in London on 16 November rallying in Trafalgar Square. One of the speakers who addressed the crowd was Sarah. On her admission to prison, the file notes ‘General debility. Sixty-three or perhaps older.’
Sarah was released around 19 April. Her medical report before discharge notes that she had refused food for two days ‘Her tongue is coated, her breath cold, features pinched, and her pulse small and frequent.’ It was felt inadvisable for her to remain if she was to continue to refuse food given her age and ‘she presents arterial degeneration.’ Sarah was not considered fit for force-feeding.Sarah was arrested again in July for her part in the protests in Birmingham associated with Asquith’s visit to the city. She was sentenced to one month in the Second Division. By this stage, the authorities had decreed that all suffragette prisoners should be fingerprinted. However, this requirement was dispensed with in Sarah’s case as the medical officer felt that ‘the impressions …cannot be taken without using such force as he thinks is inadvisable in her case.’ Again Sarah was refusing food and this plus her age, it was felt, left her too weak to be forced into having her prints taken. The same day, 28 July, as the report was written Sarah was temporarily released.
She was arrested again in May 1914. Although this is shown on the amnesty record, no other details have been found. It may, therefore, be a readmission to prison under the Cat and Mouse Act.
Sarah died in 1924 remaining close friends with other suffragettes for the rest of her life. She collaborated with Ethel Smyth, whose cell she had been next to in Holloway, on The Wreckers, an opera.
 HO 144/871/161505
 HO 45/10338/139199
 HO 144/1107/200655
 DPP 1/23
 HO 140/290
 DPP 1/23
 HO 144/1195/220196-504to670
 HO 140/306
 Suffragette 15 November 1912
 HO 144/1195/220196-504to670
 PCOM 7/252
 HO 45/24665
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