Three more arresting tales
Annie Ainsworth was arrested on February 25th 1909 [this arrest is recorded incorrectly as 1908] and November 22nd 1911, alongside Violet Aitken [see below]. The first arrest followed another attempt by the WSPU to enter the House of Commons. Following a meeting at Caxton Hall a deputation led by Mrs Pethwick Lawrence set of to the House of Commons. The police stood firm before the door, the women were shoved forwards towards them by the crowd that had gathered to watch and demanded in vain to be admitted. The police removed them from the area one by one but many endeavoured to return to the doorway ultimately being seen off by a large number of police congregated the other side of the doors. Some were arrested, others attempted to rally again or make speeches. Twenty seven women and one man were arrested among them Annie who was recorded as being twenty eight years old, she her address as 4 Clement’s Inn, the headquarters of the WSPU. When the matter came to court Annie refused to pay the £10 fine and was imprisoned for one month.
A photograph of Annie can be seen at the following link: http://www.allposters.co.uk/-sp/Annie-Ainsworth-Suffragette-and-Member-of-the-WSPU-Posters_i6844864_.htm. At the Great March held on June 8th 1910 Annie was in charge of leaflet distribution along the route. The second arrest was for breaking windows with Kathleen Broadhurst at the West Strand telegraph office. They were fined 15 shillings or one week’s imprisonment. The campaign, this episode was part of, is discussed in more detail below.
Laura Ainsworth was arrested on September 18th and November 26th 1909 both in Birmingham. Laura has been extensively written about. Imprisoned in Winson Green having been part of a demonstration when Asquith visited the city she was force fed. The aim of this blog is to write about the suffragettes with emphasis on the forgotten so I have not covered Laura in any great depth. More can be found out here: http://spartacus-educational.com/WainsworthL.htm.
Violet Aitken [full name Marion Violet Aitken] was arrested on November 28th 1911, March 7th 1912 and March 19th 1912. Her photograph can be seen here http://collections.museumoflondon.org.uk/Online/object.aspx?objectID=object-451231&start=254&rows=1.
Born in 1886 in Bedford the daughter of William and Eleanor Aitken, her father became Canon at Norwich Cathedral in 1900. Her grandfather, Robert Aitken, printed the first English Bible in America in 1782. William, an evangelist, first worked with William Pennefather, the founder of the Mildmay Conferences and the deaconess movement where women lived together to be trained to work where they were most needed supporting hospitals, education or poor relief. The Mildmay continues today as an Aids and HIV charity. William was appointed to Christ Church, Liverpool but when his wife’s health failed he moved his family to the fresh air of Derbyshire and he travelled the length and breadth of the country preaching. He made two preaching tours to America, the last in 1896.
Although the record states her date of arrest was November 28th 1911 it was actually November 22nd. A member of the WSPU she was one of two hundred and twenty three arrested including three men in Whitehall and Parliament Square. The demonstration took place in the evening intended to start at eight o’ clock the area was well policed many hours before hand. Some women attempted to force their way into the House of Commons whilst others began smashing windows at the Treasury and Scottish Education Office moving along Whitehall throwing stones at windows as they went. The stones were in contained small drawstring bags and they used the strings as a form of sling to give the stone momentum. Windows were smashed in the Strand and at Somerset House. The demonstrating continued after their arrests with some women using their elbows to smash windows at the police stations. It is not clear for what misdemeanour Violet was arrested but given her father’s diary entry for March the following year, discussed below, it seems likely it was not for window smashing. She gave her address like others as the WSPU headquarters. The outcome of the trial is not known.
In 1912 the WSPU escalated the window smashing campaign. Violet was arrested on March 5th 1912 following which the police raided the WSPU headquarters in Clement’s Inn, rented by the Pethick Lawrence’s as both their home and the WSPU offices, with arrest warrants for the Pethick Lawrences and Christine Pankhurst. A barrister and former owner of the Echo newspaper Frederick Pethick Lawrence often attended the women’s trials and posted bail. He and his wife, Emmeline disagreed with Christine’s plans to escalate the window smashing activities. Whilst Christine fled to France they were both arrested and sentenced to nine months during which time they were force fed. Her father wrote in his diary dated March 5th 1912 “she has been again arrested and this time for breaking plate glass windows, I am overwhelmed with shame and distress to think that a daughter of mine should do anything so wicked’… ‘But my poor wife! It’s heart breaking to think of her being exposed in her old age to the horror….God help us!’
The Times Newspaper reported on June 26th 1912 that due to overcrowding at Holloway some women prisoners had been moved to Winson Green prison, Birmingham, where they had been force fed, Violet was one of those women. She was released due to her ill health following the treatment and was immediately admitted to a nursing home. For a time she worked for The Suffragette, the printed voice of the campaign for votes. She died in 1987 in Hertfordshire, aged 101.
If anyone has any further information I would be very grateful.
 http://norfolkwomeninhistory.com/1851-1899/marian-violet-aitken/: NRO, MC 2165/1/23, 976X4
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