Monday, 5 February 2018

The Suffragette embroidery of 1912.














With the anniversary of the suffragette movement today I wanted to share with you all the a piece of embroidered history.  I hope you enjoy reading this today.  It is fairly long but all the ladies had to be named.  They fought bravely  for us and some died for us.








Women's suffrage in the United Kingdom was a movement to fight for women's right to vote. It finally succeeded through two laws in 1918 and 1928. It became a national movement in the Victorian era. Women were not explicitly banned from voting in Great Britain until the 1832 Reform Act  and the  1835 Municipal Corporations Act.  As well as in England,  women's suffrage movements in Wales  and other parts of the United Kingdom gained momentum. The movements shifted sentiments in favour of woman suffrage by 1906. It was at this point that the militant campaign began with the formation of the  Women's Social and Political Union.

The outbreak of the First World War  in 1914 led to a suspension of all politics, including the militant suffragette campaigns. Lobbying did take place quietly. In 1918, a coalition government passed Representation of the People Act 1918 , enfranchising all men, as well as all women over the age of 30 who met minimum property qualifications. In 1928, the Conservative government passed the Representation of the People ( Equal Franchise) Act giving the vote to all women over the age of 21 on equal terms with men.

The movement became very militant and there was breaking of windows, hunger strikes and chaining themselves to railings and lamp posts.  Many of the suffragettes were tried and put into Jail.  In Holloway Prison 66 signatures were embroidered on a handkerchief and it was dated as March 1912.  It was probably embroidered in the ladies limited exercise periods.

The following is a list of the women who signed the handkerchief, with the
limited information we have on them:

Mary A. Aldham.
She had been imprisoned after the November 1911 window-smashing
demonstrations & was sentenced to six months after the March protest. She took part
in the hunger strike & was released at the end of June without being forcibly fed. She
was one of the two grandmothers whose names appear on the handkerchief.

Janie Allan.
She was imprisoned in November & sentenced to four months in March. Her
trial was notable for her speech comparing the apparent tolerance of child abuse, the
white slave traffic (kidnapping of young girls who were forced into prostitution) & the
exploitation of women at work, with the outcry over breaking shop windows. She was
a member of a wealthy Socialist shipping family from Glasgow, where 10,500 people
signed a petition protesting at her imprisonment. In May she barricaded herself in her
cell & later joined the hunger strike, which lead to her being forcibly fed. She
continued with her militant actions after her release & in 1914 she became famous for
firing a blank shot at a policeman trying to arrest Mrs. Pankhurst.

Doreen Allen.
Sentenced to four months she was forcibly fed after joining the hunger strike. To
pass the time a scene from Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” was performed
by the prisoners & she took the part of Narissa.

Kathleen Bardsley.
No information available. She may have used a false name when arrested. This
was often done to protect a husband or family.

Janet Boyd.
The second grandmother on the handkerchief, she was imprisoned in November
& sentenced to six months in March. She went on hunger strike but released at the end
of June without being forcibly fed.

Hilda Burkitt.
She was a WSPU organiser in Birmingham & had been arrested many times
before being sentenced to four months in March. At her trial she said that she had
done nothing malicious & refused to be bound over, saying that she would consider it
a disgrace to womanhood. She went on hunger strike & was released before the end of
her sentence. She played the part of Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice”. In 1914
she was imprisoned again for setting fire to a house & some haystacks in Suffolk.

Eileen Casey.
Sentenced to four months, she was forcibly fed after going on hunger strike. She
was arrested on at least two other occasions; once in Bradford, when she was
sentenced to nine months but escaped dressed in men’s clothing & again in
Nottingham when she was sentenced to 15 months after being found in possession of
explosives.

Isabella Casey.
She was arrested in March but no further information is available.
Kate E. Teresa Cardro.
She was awarded the WSPU medal for taking part in the 1912 hunger strike but
little else is known of her.

Grace Chappelow.
From Chelmsford in Essex, she had been arrested in November & was
imprisoned again, for four months in March.
Georgina J. Cheffins.
Sentenced to four months. At her trial she said that she was a Suffragist by
conviction, because, after living & working among the very poor for more than twenty
years, she had come to the conclusion that all efforts to improve their conditions were
futile without the benefit of the franchise. She supported the WSPU because she felt
that their militant methods gave the best chance of success. She joined the hunger
strike & was forcibly fed.

Constance J. Collier.
She was Hon. Secretary of the Hampstead WSPU & was sentenced to four
months.

Constance Craig.
She had been imprisoned in November & was sentenced to two months hard
labour in March. She later wrote of her first spell in prison; “I was sentenced to three
weeks but there were so many of us that the authorities got muddled, & I served only
three days – someone else did my three weeks”.

Ethel M. Crawby.
No information available.
Nelly Crocker.
One of the organisers of the Nottingham branch of the WSPU she was sentenced
to four months in prison for attacking a post office in Sloane Square. At her trial she
said that she was there as a result of the brutality shown against women on “Black
Friday” (when women marching on Parliament had been attacked by the police). She
also wanted to protest against the vindictive sentences given to WSPU supporters.

Alice Davies.
Forty-two years old & from Liverpool she was sentenced to three months. She
said at her trial that women were determined to fight for the same human rights
enjoyed by men. They were tired of being treated as aliens & would continue their
struggle until they had reached their objective.

Edith Downing.
She had been imprisoned in November & was sentenced to six months in March.
At her trial she told the jury that she regretted that peaceable & law-abiding women
had been forced to do these things. She referred to the brutality of “Black Friday”,
when she had almost lost her life & to the taunts of cabinet ministers over the
women’s previous mild methods. She said that women were prepared to die in this
“agitation”. She joined the hunger strike & was forcibly fed before being released
early in June.

Emma Fowler.
She was arrested in March but no further information is available.
Lettice Floyd (1865-1934).
Sentenced to two months hard labour. She came originally from Berkswell, near
Solihull where she was a nurse in a children’s hospital. She later wrote of this
experience; “I was there some years, but as most of the cases seemed to be due to bad
housing, bad feeding or immorality, it was not entirely satisfactory work, & it did not
go to the root of the matter”. With her sister, Mary, she set up a local branch of the
Birmingham & District Suffrage Society but after the first militant actions of the
Suffragettes this was dissolved & she left the hospital to work for the WSPU. In 1912
she was Hon. Secretary of the Halifax & Huddersfield branch. She was arrested
several times, in London, Leeds, Hull & Cardiff.

Katherine Gatty.
A member of the Women’s Freedom League & a friend of Emily Wilding
Davison, she was imprisoned in November & was given a six-month sentence in
March. At her trial she said that men were allowed to break women’s hearts & homes
without punishment & that for breaking £42 worth of glass she was being sentenced
to four months more than an Edinburgh man who had broken his wife’s skull. In her
opinion property was worth more in the eyes of the law than the person. When in
prison for the first time she had seen the misery & poverty &, even though she was
peaceable by nature, she would gladly break the law if by doing so she could obtain
for women some voice in the making of it. Although Suffragettes were normally
segregated from other prisoners this was not always the case & she was initially sent
to Holloway’s E block, which “was ghastly! The lavatory accommodation was
absolutely inadequate. The whole block was infested with mice & co. – there was no
heating apparatus at all”. She had the privilege of visits withdrawn for refusing to
work in prison &, after going on hunger strike, was forcibly fed thirteen times. She
was released early, in June, in a very weak condition. She was forty-two years old.

G. H. Grant.
She was imprisoned in November & sentenced to two months hard labour in
March.

Alice Green.
Imprisoned in November & sentenced to four months in March. She refused to
be bound over, saying; “Let me tell you what I have gone through lately on behalf of
this cause. I have given up my home, my husband & my child, & I shall not go back
until women get the vote”. She went on hunger strike & by the middle of May was
being forcibly fed through a nasal tube. She was eventually released at the end of
June. She was forty years of age.

J. L. Guthrie.
No information available.

Louise Hargeld.
No information available.

Mary Granley Hewitt.
Sentenced to four months.

Mary Hilliard.
She was sentenced to two months hard labour & would appear to have written
“Votes for Women” on the handkerchief. She may have organised the project & kept
the finished article.

Edith Hudson.
She was a forty-year old hospital nurse from Edinburgh & secretary of the
Edinburgh & East Scotland branch of the WSPU. She was imprisoned many times,
sometimes under her alias, Mary Brown. She was sentenced to two months but was
released in June, after joining the hunger strike & being forcibly fed, on payment of a
£3 fine by her family. She told the authorities that “it was just like her mother to be so
determined”. In April 1913 she attempted to set fire to a stand at Kelso race course &
also took part in an attack on the Wallace Monument in Stirling.

Olivia Jeffcott.
She was sentenced to two months hard labour.

Barbara S. Jocke.
No information available.

May R. Jones.
From Birmingham, she had been imprisoned in November 1911 but her sentence
in March is not known. She went on hunger strike in May & was forcibly fed with a
nasal tube. She seems to have been released at the end of May.

Alice J. Stewart Ker (1853-1943).
A fifty-eight year old doctor born in Banff in Scotland, Alice Ker studied
medicine in Dublin & Berne before working as a surgeon at the Children’s Hospital in
Birmingham. She moved to Birkenhead & became Honorary Medical Officer to the
Wirral Hospital for Sick Children; also becoming involved in the Temperance
Movement & the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In the 1890’s she
became active in the Birkenhead Women’s Suffrage Society. She was sentenced to
three months in prison for breaking windows in Harrods. At her trial she said that as a
doctor in practice, a lecturer in T.B., a mother of daughters & President of the
Women’s Society of Liverpool she felt that it was her duty to do all that she could to
bring about reform. She quoted cabinet ministers advising women to use force &
stated that because of the just reasons for her actions she was not, morally, guilty of
any offence.

C. L. & C. E. L.
The two sets of initials are a bit of a mystery. Lady Constance Lytton was well
known as a Suffragette & one of the leaders of the WSPU, but they cannot be her
initials as she was not in prison at this time. C. L. could be Catherine Lane, who was
arrested on March 1st & was eventually bound over & released in Early April.
C. E. L., in the bottom left –hand corner, may simply be the initials of the owner of
the handkerchief.

Jessie Laing.
She was sentenced to two months hard labour.

Kate Lilley & Louise Lilley.
They were sisters, members of the WSPU in Clacton-on-Sea & the daughters of
a “well- known Essex gentleman”. They were both sentenced to two months hard
labour.

Lillie Lindesay.
She was sentenced to two months.

Gertrude Lowy.
Sentenced to two months hard labour.

Margaret Macfarlane.
She was the Hon. Secretary of the WSPU in Dundee & East Fife. She had been
imprisoned in November & was sentenced to four months in March. At her trial she
said that all her life she had been a reformer & had found that the only argument
listened to by those in power was inconvenience. She refused to be bound over,
saying; “I prefer to agitate in a way that will be successful. If it means six months or
six years, I prefer to go on”. She went on hunger strike & by the middle of May she
was being forcibly fed by nasal tube. After her release at the end of June she described
being forcibly fed by mouth:
“I was lifted into a chair & tied with a strong sheet to the back
of the chair. As far as I can remember, my arms were held on
each side on the arms of the chair. There was a wardress with a
feeding cup & one behind my chair, making a gag for the mouth
with her fingers. Another held my knees. I told them that I
would not swallow a drop of the gruel voluntarily. When they
found that I did not retain any of the food, the one who was
gagging me egged the others on to tickle me, to hold my nose to
make me swallow, & to grip me on the throat, which to me is
the most cruel. The pressing of the throat to make one swallow
gives a fearful feeling of suffocation. When they got my feet up, my head
was hanging right over the back of the chair, which added to the choking
sensation”.

Helen MacRae.
She came from Edenbridge, in Kent. She was a member of the NUWSS but left
to join the WSPU & became a member of the East Grinstead Suffrage Society. On
July 8th 1911 she helped to organise the first WSPU meeting in the town at the
Queen’s Hall. Soon afterwards she was arrested for breaking windows in Whitehall &
was sentenced to four months in prison. In March she was sentenced to another four
months & was forcibly fed after going on hunger strike.

Lizzie McKenzie.
She was sentenced to two months. She said at her trial; “I do not wish to say
anything at all. I only wish to say that whatever I did, I did as a protest against the
Government’s action”.

Frances M. McPhun (1880-1940) & Margaret McPhun (1876-1960).
The McPhuns were sisters & the daughters of a Glasgow J. P., who both gained
M. A.’s at Glasgow University. Both were very active in the WSPU. Frances was the
Organising Secretary of the Glasgow & West Scotland branch & Margaret acted as

Press Secretary for Scotland. They were both sentenced to two
months imprisonment & took part in the April hunger strikes but
there is no mention of them in the reports of arrests & trials in
“Votes for Women” (the WSPU newspaper). This suggests that
they were arrested under false names, although they both received
the WSPU hunger strike medal.

Margaret McPhun
E. K. Marshall.
She had been arrested in November & was sentenced to three months in March.
Lillias Mitchell.
Aged twenty-seven, & described as “independent”, she came from Aberdeen &
was the organiser of the WSPU in Edinburgh & the East of Scotland. She was known
for replacing the flags on the greens of Balmoral Golf Course with new ones in
WSPU colours. Sentenced to four months in March, she went on hunger strike but
was released at the end of June without being forcibly fed. In 1913 she became WSPU
organiser of the Newcastle & District branch.

Anne Myer.
She came from Liverpool & was one of a group from the city who travelled to
London especially for the March demonstrations. She was sentenced to two months.
Cassie Nesbit.
She was sentenced to two months.

Fanny D. Palethorpe.
Although she was not a member of the WSPU, or any other suffrage society, she
was sentenced to four months in prison. She was thirty-nine years of age & came from
Ainsdale in Lancashire. At her trial she said that, although she had always worked on
constitutional lines, she had come to realise that peaceful protests would be of no avail
with the present Government.

Frances Parker (1875-1924).
A niece of Lord Kitchener, she was the WSPU organiser for Glasgow & the
West of Scotland. She said at her trial; “If I had thrown a stone as a striker, or even as
a man who is intoxicated, I suppose I should have received a very light sentence; for I
have noticed that men in Swansea, when they were held up for rioting, got a fortnights
imprisonment, & the ringleader of them got only six weeks imprisonment. Of course,
I admit that the whole difference is the difference of motive, but I think the long
sentences in our case prove that the motive is recognised, & I contend that if you
recognise the motive you should also recognise the provocation”. She was sentenced
to four months imprisonment. In 1914 she was arrested & imprisoned (under her alias,
Janet Arthur) for trying to blow up Burns Cottage in Alloway.

Fanny Pease.
Sentenced to two months imprisonment.

Isabella Potbury.
She was a student who had been imprisoned in November & was sentenced to
another six months in March. She was released early, at the end of June, after joining
the hunger strike & being forcibly fed.

Zoe Proctor.
Sentenced to two months imprisonment. Like many of the women she came
from an affluent background & initially had trouble adapting to prison routine. She
expected her bed to be made for her, much to the amusement of the other prisoners.

M. Renny.
Sentenced to two months imprisonment.

Helena de Reya.
Aged thirty-one, she was one of the group from Liverpool. At her trial she said
that she did not consider that she was morally or legally guilty. The Government, &
the Government alone, held it in their power to stop any further scenes of disorder.
She was sentenced to four months.

Gladys Roberts.
A former solicitor’s clerk, she was the joint organiser, with Nelly Crocker, of the
Nottingham branch of the WSPU. She had been imprisoned in 1909 & 1911 for
breaking Post Office windows. In March 1912 she was sentenced to four months.
Dorothea Herlet Rock & Madeleine Rock.
Both had been imprisoned in November & both were sentenced to two months
in March.
Margaret Rowlatt.
She had been imprisoned in November & was sentenced to six months in March.
She went on hunger strike & was released, without being forcibly fed, in June.
M. du Santay Newby.
She was the Hon. Secretary & Treasurer of the WSPU in Ilfracombe &
Barnstable. She was probably arrested under a false name as there is no record of her
being arrested or on trial in March 1912.

Alice Maud Shipley.
She had been imprisoned in November, but at her trial in March she said; “More
than half my life I have been doing what lies in me to help the poor & unfortunate. As
a member of a Vigilance Society, & as a worker in connection with other societies, I
know the condition of our women & girls, & the dangers that lie about them & that
they have no power to protect themselves; & that knowledge has made me take up the
attitude I have today. I feel our case is a most urgent one, & I feel that only a woman
can understand a woman’s needs, that women suffer for the want & care of men, &
that their salvation lies in looking after their own needs & in demanding the vote”.
She refused to be bound over & was given a four month sentence. She went on hunger
strike & was forcibly fed before being released at the end of June. She was forty-two
years old.

Victoria Simmons (1889-1992).
Born in Bristol in 1889 & one of twelve children, she left school at fourteen
because her father believed daughters should not receive the same education as sons
& spent many years campaigning for equality in education. She was sentenced to two
months imprisonment in 1912 for breaking a window at the War Office in Whitehall,
the police found eight more stones in her pockets.
Janie Terrero (1858-1944).
She was the Hon. Secretary of the Pinner WSPU & was sentenced to four
months. She later wrote an account of her prison experiences of 1912; “I was in close
confinement for twelve days, was in two hunger strikes & was forcibly fed in April &
again in June. To those who intend to be actively militant, I want to say this; you
cannot imagine how strong you feel in prison. The Government may take your liberty
from you & lock you up, but they cannot imprison your spirit. The only one thing the
Government really fears is the hunger strike. They fear it not because of our pain &
suffering, but because it damages their majorities. How strong that weapon made us
feel. If they had only dared, they would have put us in a lethal chamber. Some people
wonder at the courage of our women, but I believe physical courage is a common
human attribute, & I do not see why women should possess it in a lesser degree than
men”.

Grace Tollamache.
She joined the WSPU in 1910 & was, with her sister, the joint Hon. Secretary of
the Bath branch. In 1911 she took part in a Census boycott (on the night of the census
count a number of women stayed away from home to protest at their lack of political
rights). After the March demonstration she was sentenced to two months. In 1914 she
was arrested after smashing a window at Buckingham Palace in the middle of a
banquet but the King refused to prosecute.

Leanora Tyson.
She was sentenced to two months. She was the secretary of the
Streatham branch of the WSPU & had also been organising secretary
of the Lambeth Branch. In February 1912 she had been on a speaking
tour of Germany on behalf of the organisation. Her mother & sister
were also active WSPU members & were imprisoned in 1912.

Vera Wentworth.
Possibly one of the best known of the women named on the handkerchief, she
wrote plays for the Actresses Franchise League & took part in some of the suffrage
movements most militant actions; she was one of the protestors who interrupted the
holiday of Prime Minister Herbert Asquith by breaking windows, shouting at him in
church & decorating gardens with “Votes for Women” badges. At her trial in 1912
she said that smashing windows was very unpleasant. They would not have done it
without the incitement of Mr. Hobhouse (he was M. P. for Bristol & had unfavourably
compared the non-violent methods of the women with previous successful, but
violent, suffrage movements) & as long as the Liberal Government behaved like this
they would continue to do it. She would have done a great deal more, had she not
been restrained by the leaders, she would do the same thing again & possibly worse.
The prosecution pointed out that she had been convicted in 1909, 1910 & November
1911, & she was sentenced to six months. She went on hunger strike & was forcibly
fed by nasal tube before being released at the end of June.

Frances Williams.
She was sentenced to four months imprisonment. At her trial she said that it was
a political protest against injustice, made in her old age, & not with any malice. She
went on hunger strike & was released in June without being forcibly fed.

Eva Wilson.
Sentenced to two months imprisonment.

Alice Morgan Wright (1881-1975).
She was an American sculptress & member of the National Association of
Women Painters & Sculptors. She also campaigned against animal cruelty but little is
known of her involvement with women’s suffrage in this country.
Of the 66 women whose full names appear on the handkerchief, 61 are known to
have been arrested on the window-smashing demonstrations; 25 are known to have
received sentences of two months, 3 of three months, 18 of four months & 8 of six
months. Sixteen held positions in local branches of the WSPU in 1912 & 18 had
previously been in prison for activities linked to the suffrage movement; at least four
are known to have been arrested again in later years. Twenty-four took part in the
hunger strikes of 1912 & fifteen were forcibly fed.

Text transcribed from the original research & writings of Barbara Miller with additional research by Antony Smith.

The hanky that is pictured was found in a pile of fabrics to be burned in the 1970's after a jumble sale! can you imagine ..... We would have lost this very important piece of history of women, who fought for us to be equal.



Happy Stitching! XX

15 comments:

  1. Thank you that was very interesting

    Julie xxxxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am so glad you enjoyed your read Julie.

      Sarah xxxxxxx

      Delete
  2. Amazingly brave women. We do rather take it all for granted now. What a shock for the lady who thought she would have her bed made for her in prison. Sounds so dreadful. We owe them so much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Dawn
      Thank you glad you enjoyed the read! Yes we do tend to take it for granted rather but I want to mark it .. we indeed owe them so much.
      Making the bed made me chuckle too! ..
      xx

      Delete
  3. Thank you for bringing this item to our notice, I have always been well aware of the suffrage movement, and was told many things by my Grandmother who lived in London till 1918. She was always so keen to use her vote until almost the end of her life in 1972.
    As an embroiderer I greatly enjoy your blog and your stitching tales.
    Lx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Lorraine

      Thank you I am so pleased you enjoyed reading my blogs and about the suffragette embroidery.. to think it was to be burnt!!
      Thank you for taking the time to comment as well.
      Wow your Grandma probably had some tales to tell. My father when I turned18 made me vote saying women died so you cold.. it was instilled in me and I am grateful it was. We are so lucky these ladies fought so fiercely.

      Sarah xx

      Delete
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