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.