Dorothea Benson was arrested on 1 March 1912 and charged with malicious damage to a window, valued at 20 shillings, in New Bond Street, the property of John Cooling who ran a fine art establishment together with window two doors up valued at £40. For reasons which are not clear the charge relating to the second window was dropped before the matter came to court. Dorothea pleaded guilty. She was bound over to keep the peace for twelve months and fined £5.
Although on some of the official records Dorothea is noted as being married she was, in fact, single. She was born in 1885 in Birmingham to William and Dorothy; one of four children, three of whom survived to adulthood. The family were comfortably circumstanced. The 1901 census records that William was a retired confectioner even though he was only in his early forties. Dorothea is, as many suffragettes were, missing from the 1911 census while her sister, Mildred, is recorded as employed in an estate agency.
The 1939 register records that Mildred and Dorothea were living together. While Mildred continues to work, Dorothea is stated to be incapacitated. She died in 1950.
The next entry is for William Edward Bethell. Unusually no date for his arrest is included. Searching through the newspapers a bizarre tale transpired.The Suffragette newspaper first carried a story of a meeting addressed by Thomas Macnamara, Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty. Macnamara, it was reported, lost his temper at repeated interjections. As tensions rose, the stewards attempted to eject one woman who nearly fell from a balcony. The accident was prevented by the intervention of officials installed at the organisers instigation who had anticipated matters might get out of hand. William was caught up in the melee; breaking his nose which prevented him from working.The following week’s edition announced William’s death. The headline reads: ‘Tyranny Claims Another Victim.’ Condolences are extended to William’s family who, it is reported, sustained his injuries protecting his brother. The cause of death was heart failure. The article continues: ‘The loss of this brave young fighter for liberty is a grief to all Suffragists… How nobly his courage and his sacrifice stand.’ A similar report was printed in Votes for Women on 21 November. Subscriptions were requested to enable a memorial to be placed on his grave.The Daily Mail, 29 November 1913, reported that despite exhaustive searches no one had come forward to say they had certified William’s death or where his grave was. The newspaper had tracked down William’s father, who stated, that as far as he knew, William was in Canada with his wife and children and had been so for the last year. He showed the journalist a letter he had received, the previous month, from William, postmarked Canada.William’s brother, Walter, himself a suffrage campaigner, appears to have been the source of the story. Many months before he had been informed that William was back in London. Walter did not see his brother until he also attended the meeting at which Thomas Macnamara spoke. Although the two brothers did not talk to each other, Walter saw William ejected - sustaining injuries to his nose and knee. Walter, subsequently, received a note asking him to ‘Come at once’ in William’s handwriting. However, Walter could not find him. Later someone called on Walter and informed him William had died. Walter then let the Men’s Political Union know who, in turn, informed the suffragette newspapers.By 5 December, the Suffragette included a few lines retracting the earlier story as the newspaper had been ‘misled by false information.’ The police interviewed Walter, his wife, his father and step-mother. Walter’s wife contradicted her husband entirely informing the police that Walter had told her that William had died in Canada while attending a political meeting. No trace was found of a death certificate or internment. What exactly became of William remains a mystery
Annie Biggs was arrested twice in March 1907 and September 1911. The first arrest was for her part in a demonstration; Annie was sentenced to two weeks imprisonment. In 1907 a book was published entitled My Prison Life and Why I Am a Suffragette written by Annie S Biggs which seems likely to be by one and the same person.Annie was arrested in early April 1908 but not being a suffragette offence; it does not appear on the amnesty record. The Sheffield Evening Telegraph, 8 April 1908, reported the appearance in court of Annie who refused to give her address and described herself as an organiser. She had been charged with obstruction for sweeping a crossing between Waterloo Place and Pall Mall in Central London. Annie is described as a well-dressed woman wearing a “fashionable black toque, trimmed with red flowers and white suede gloves” who spoke, “in a refined tone, and was evidently well educated”. Her sweeping the crossing had drawn a crowd which, the police deemed it, was causing an obstruction. On being requested to desist, she had refused and was arrested. In court, Annie stated that she had tried to gain employment; she was a caterer and organiser of first-class restaurants undertaking some of the finest work in London. Annie claimed her references were too good, which meant she had been unsuccessful in finding work as a domestic servant. She had tried to emigrate to Queensland, but this had been unsuccessful. Annie added that she had not known it was against the law to sweep crossings. The magistrate explained why she should not have been sweeping the crossing to which Annie responded: “.. I think I have had enough of crossing sweeping; probably I shall not, go there again.” The magistrate discharged her. In August 1908 Annie was admitted to the workhouse. She is said to be homeless and suffering from an ulcerated leg. No date for her discharge is recorded.
Three years later, Annie was arrested again. This time she presented herself at Cannon Row Police Station stating she had broken two windows at the Home Office. Annie was described as an organiser who was homeless. Annie said that she had broken the windows to draw attention to her plight. Prior to breaking the windows, she had spent the entire night sitting at the out patient’s department of a hospital hoping to be admitted as an in-patient but had failed to achieve her aim. Annie had been without food until the police offered her sustenance. The police informed the court that some months before she had participated in a suffragette protest, been arrested and charged with resisting the police. Annie had, the police added, also appeared before the courts accused of obstruction of the highway. The first of these statements is not consistent with the arrest records as only this incident and the arrest in 1907 are included. In response to the assertion regarding the suffragette movement, Annie said she was now opposed to the movement.
Annie, who was clearly having a challenging time, was remanded in custody to be examined by a doctor. No newspaper reports can be found recording what followed. She was admitted to the workhouse, again, in October 1911 and released, on the order of a magistrate, presumably to enable her to appear in court. She was readmitted and discharged again at her own request a few weeks later. It seems probable that Annie was admitted to the workhouse again as Annie S Biggs, journalist, is recorded as being admitted on 12 December 1911. Again, Annie was admitted on 5 August 1913, discharged on 11 August possibly to hospital. There are no files with any information within the suffragette collection beyond the amnesty record. No further trace has been found.
Elizabeth Billing was arrested in October 1908 charged with obstructing the police near the Houses of Parliament. Elizabeth was ordered to pay a fine and agree to be bound over to keep the peace. She refused and was imprisoned for one month. She was released on 21 November alongside fellow suffragettes. The women were greeted by Mrs Pethick Lawrence and Mrs Howe Martyn accompanied by a band playing the Marseillaise. According to Votes for Women, 15 October 1908, Elizabeth was a new recruit to the movement who had only recently addressed a crowd at her first street corner meeting. After she wrote, “My great regret is to have wasted many valuable years while others have stood the brunt of the battle.”Elizabeth Emily Billing was born in 1877 to George, a surgeon’s assistant and Emily. The family lived in Blackpool. By 1901 her father was a doctor and Elizabeth had three siblings including a younger sister, May, who contributed to suffragette funds. Votes for Women, 25 October 1912, announced Elizabeth’s marriage to Darwin Leighton. The couple settled in Kendal, Westmoreland, where Darwin was a grocer. The couple had three daughters. Elizabeth died in 1947.
 HO 144/1193/220196-1to233
 DPP 1/19 HO 140/298
 HO 45/10712/245464
 MEPO 2/1222
The next two entries read Mary or May Billinghurst who was arrested in December 1912 and January 1913; Rosa May Billinghurst arrested March 1912. These two entries actually relate to one person Rosa May Billinghurst, as does the entry May Bellinghurst arrested November 1911. Known as May, she was born in 1876 into a comfortable middle-class family. During childhood, May contracted polio which left her unable to walk without leg irons – often using a wheelchair tricycle. As a young woman, May volunteered at the workhouse in Greenwich, which opened her eyes to the hardships suffered by the poor. May joined the Women’s Social Political Union early on believing, as did many, that the vote was the means by which women would have a say and be able to raise issues such as poverty. It is clear from the Vote for Women newspaper that this endeavour became a family affair with her mother and sister, Alice, joining and other family members giving donations. It is recorded that May and her mother during seven years donated £252.
May went on to be secretary of the Greenwich WSPU. She was well aware that her appearance at rallies or canvassing at by-elections in her tricycle drew attention to the cause. Her first arrest was for her part in Black Friday, but such turmoil did not deter her. May was described in the press as a “conspicuous” presence, charged with obstruction the charges were dropped. May submitted a statement to the enquiry undertaken by Henry Brailsford and Jessie Murray. May opened: ‘I am lame and cannot walk or get about at all without the aid of a hand tricycle’. The police ‘threw me out of the machine on to the ground in a very brutal manner.’ The police then attempted to move May on by pushing the tricycle ‘with my arms twisted behind me in a very painful position, with one of my fingers bent right back.’ In a side street, the police officers removed the valves to deflate her tyres which meant she was stuck in the middle of a crowd unable to move. Later the valves were replaced, but the police officers attempted to remove them again; when this failed they ‘twisted’ the wheel instructing a man in the crowd to use a police knife to ‘slit’ the tyre. The man declined, noting down the police officer’s number. May was marooned again. When she eventually returned home, May was confined to bed for two days recovering.
A year later she was arrested for her part in another demonstration outside Parliament and “was carried through the thick of the crowd by half-dozen stalwart policemen”. The reporting of this arrest shows the power of being seated in a tricycle, over one hundred and fifty women were arrested after the leaders of the movement, but May is singled out for special mention in many of the newspaper reports. The charge was obstruction which was discharged. A few days later, May was arrested again. This time she was sentenced to five days imprisonment.
May was arrested again for her part in the window smashing campaign and was, this time, imprisoned for one month. In December 1912 she was arrested along with Grace Michel and charged with unlawfully placing a liquid in a post box thereby injuring the post box and its contents. On being searched six rubber tubes containing a black fluid were found on her lap. She was sent for trial in January, found guilty she was sentenced to eight months in the First Division. The judge when he passed sentence observed that many supported the right of women to the vote, but that might have been granted by now if it was not for the actions of a militant few to which those on trial had mistakenly adhered themselves. “..they were animated by the highest and purest motives in what they did, and that, having spent many years among the poorest class of women, they had been impressed with the miseries which resulted from the sweating system, … which often led to the degradation of women and to other results too terrible to contemplate.” A surprisingly more supportive statement than was the norm.
Despite many letters demanding that May was not force-fed, due to her poor health, she was subjected to this degradation on several occasions. Her health declined and on 19 January, having served ten days, she was released. After a period of recuperation, May spoke at events recounting her experiences and denouncing force-feeding. In May 1914 May was part of the deputation who attempted to speak directly with the King. Refusing to move on, she chained her tricycle to the railings at Buckingham Palace. She was not arrested; as no doubt, her notoriety meant the authorities had no intention of giving anyone the opportunity of claiming they were preying on a disabled woman.
May remained politically active until she died in 1953.
 TS 27/19
 MEPO 3/203
 Dundee Courier 22 November 1911
 MEPO 2/1488 HO 144/1107/200655
 HO 144/1193/220196-1to233
 DPP 1/19 HO 140/306
 TS 27/19
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