History Podcasts

Emily Blathwayt

Emily Blathwayt

Women's Suffrage bill brought in by private member and government allowed it to be talked out. The Liberals do not keep their pledges. The Women's Union beg all to turn against Liberals and think only of the one Cause. Linley is much in favour of women having the vote, he thinks they would do much more good than harm.

The meanness of the present cabinet is great. I fear they will kill poor Annie Kenney before they have done as she declares her intention of going to prison again and the magistrates are getting vicious over the sentences. Of course the martyrs help the Cause and that is what they want... The Pankhurst women seem splendid.

Mary came home after being all the morning in the Police Court with the friends of the prisoners. They all feel miserable about self-sacrificing Mrs. Pankhurst, who is condemned to six weeks confinement like a criminal. Mary asked the policeman whether, if she went out to buy some food, she could get in again, and he said he would see to it. So she bought a huge bag of buns, some fruit and chocolate and distributed them among the people. The policemen were all so good to the women and were wearing "Votes for Women" buttons under their cloaks and so were the reporters, and asking for some for their wives.

A most perfect day and about fifty people came... Annie Kenney won the admiration of everyone by her speech. We laid down matting and put chairs on tennis court and after the speech we had tea on front lawn. Everything went perfectly except for Annie Kenney's voice. She strained it at Peckham and Mrs. Pethick Lawrence took her to a specialist who told her to be careful; now at Plymouth she has addressed thousands of people and has strained it very much.

The London papers have account of the row, and the Bath papers are horrified, especially the liberal Herald. About 200 hooligans made a rush from the back after the hall, being full, was supposed to be closed... Mary said it was "a grand advertisement" for them. Clara Codd was not allowed to speak but the chairman Annie said everything to the purpose as she always does and the reporters have put it all in. When the platform was about to be rushed they broke up the meeting and got some of the ladies into a smaller room where they spoke... Annie was begged to go out by the back, but she said she would not sneak out like a Cabinet Minister. The police with difficulty protected our poor man from Bence's with the fly and our four got off safely. We read Clara who walked was sadly hustled and the police got her party into the York House Mews.

It was in this year (1907) that I was made Bristol organiser. I had not been in Bristol long when I took on the whole of the West of England, also Devonshire and Cornwall. There is not a city and scarcely a town that I have not spoken in, from Bath to Land's End. The happiest days of organising were those I spent in the West of England.

Bristol and Bath stand out most. The members in those two cities were wonderful workers; they worked night and day. I had not one voluntary worker, I had scores. I trained speaker after speaker.

It would be futile to mention other names, they were all wonderful to me. There is just one I should like to mention, that of the late Colonel Blathwayt. He and Mrs. Blathwayt, of Eagle House, Batheaston treated me as though I were one of their own family. All my week-ends I spent under their hospitable roof. They also gave hospitality to the numerous speakers who came to the centre.

I say to you young women who have private means or whose parents are able and willing to support you while they give you freedom to choose your vocation. Come and give one year of your life to bringing the message of deliverance to thousands of your sisters... Put yourself through a short course of training under one of our chief officers or at headquarters in London, and then become one of our honorary staff organisers. Miss Annie Kenney, in the West of England, has two such honorary organisers. Miss Blathwayt is the only daughter of Colonel Linley Blathwayt, of Bath. Yet her parents have set her free with their fullest approbation and sympathy, and with a generous allowance, to devote her whole time to the work. She is Miss Kenney's right hand in Bristol. Miss Elsie Howey is honorary organiser in Plymouth. She is the daughter of Mrs. Howey, of Malvern. Mrs. Howey and her two daughters have given generously of all that they have, but the best prized gift is the life-work of this noble girl who has undergone two periods of imprisonment for the sake of women less privileged and happily placed than herself. She is one of our most able and successful organisers, and takes all the duties and responsibilities of our chief officers.

Beautiful day for the tree planting and Linley photographed the three in a group at each tree. Annie put the West one, Mrs. P. Lawrence, South, and Lady Constance the East. Miss Codd came to the field. Then Linley took others indoors and they left in his motor.

Affectionate letter from Mrs. Lawrence. Clara Codd came over and she and Miss Canning each planted a tree. Rawlings (the handyman) was there by his own choice and quite entered into the idea.

The London papers have account of the row, and the Bath papers are horrified, especially the liberal Linley brought packets of photos and they think (with the signatures) they ought to fetch from £70 to £80. They cost Linley a little over £20 and have given him a lot of amusement. The idea of a field of trees grows, it is even suggested as a place set apart for future ashes.

Mary planted her golden holly near Annie's but in the outer circle, and Jessie Kenney having been to prison planted near Annie's in the inner. Vera Holme also put a tree below Mary's. She is a splendid woman and interested in all Linley's subjects and she took up Mary's violin and was very clever with it. She has a beautiful voice and we sang after washing up. Suffragettes are splendid for any work.

Elsie Howey, Vera Wentworth and Mary Phillips were arrested at Exeter and imprisoned for a week and it is said they are going through the hunger strike as the 14 have done. The crowds were with them outside Lord Carrington's meeting and all resisted police and two working men were arrested. The women would not pay the fine. Annie Kenney expects to be taken soon herself, and asked Mary to go and manage for her in Bristol.

It is a terrible time and we do not know whether these people are right or wrong. Several were arrested, women and men too, breaking up Lloyd George's meeting in London. One man defender was seriously hurt and was taken to hospital. Annie looks ill but says this is absolutely necessary. We begged her not to cause any motor car accident; they do not know the nature of cars and had a plan about Churchill. When Gladstone was told in Parliament no civilised country treated political prisoners as he was doing, he said it was time other countries followed us. We fear if these people starve for a week he will let them. Some of the others went more than six days without food.

Linley and I went in pouring rain to the Tollemaches who had a tent beyond their house and Mr. Laurence Housman gave a very good address on Women's Suffrage... The lecturer said he could not say anything against militant methods as the women had been driven to it by the non-action of the men. I cannot feel quite the same. We hear of terrible things by the two Hooligans we know, Vera and Elsie and there is a Kenney in it. They made a regular raid on Mr. Asquith breaking a window and using personal violence. Then missiles have been thrown lately through windows during Cabinet Members meetings which might injure or kill innocent persons.

This morning I posted the following to the Sec. 4 Clement's Inn. "Dear Madam, with great reluctance I am writing to ask that my name may be taken off the list as a Member of the W.S.P.U. Society. When I signed the membership paper, I thoroughly approved of the methods then used. Since then there has been personal violence and stone throwing which might injure innocent people. When asked by acquaintances what I think of these things I am unable to say that I approve, and people of my village who have hitherto been full of admiration for the "Suffragettes" are now feeling very differently. I shall continue to do what I can to help, but I cannot conscientiously say now that I approve the methods used by several of the members... Later on Linley wrote to Christabel Parkhurst expressing something of the same views and he said how could he again be seen driving Elsie and Vera. They seem to have behaved very badly.

Have sent a cutting to Christabel and told her about my personal observation of Vera Wentworth and Elsie Howley. If she allows them to go on any more raids she has been warned. Linley is writing to Annie Kenney and appeals to her to do nothing violent.

Vera Wentworth sent Linley a tardy acknowledgement of the photo he sent and hopes he was not shocked at their punching Asquith's head. I am writing back coldly, saying how grieved he is at the late actions and the stone throwing; telling how I was obliged to leave as I could no longer "approve the methods" and finishing "An attack on one undefended man by three women was an act I did not expect from the Society". Last time Vera and Elsie left here I promised myself they should never come again if it were only on account of the reckless destruction of other people's property.

Mary Phillips who will stay here for night, coming from her home in Glasgow for Truro.... She is a militant but of a different nature and neither approves of stone throwing or running away. She planted the new tree and was photographed.

Long letter from Vera Wentworth who is very sorry we are grieved but if Mr. Asquith will not receive deputation they will pummel him again. She says the authorities knew nothing of the raid for which they alone are responsible. They are driven nearly mad by the unjust treatment all their dear women have received and she points out they did no serious harm to Asquith whereas Herbert Gladstone gave Jessie a nasty blow in the chest. She also says what the liberal stewards have done at the meetings to the women. She really believes she is acting quite rightly. The letter needs no reply.

Mrs. Ashworth Hallett came with her husband and planted her holly. She was one of the first workers for the suffrage and knew Dr. Pankhurst before he was married, in Manchester, when her Uncle Jacob Bright was there. They were both so pleased with it all and took great interest in the pond and the Midford Sand and all the trees and the "Rest". Hallett quite thanked us for helping the Suffragettes, but like ourselves they do not like violent methods.

Linley (Blathwayt) and Annie Kenney brought Mrs. Pethick-Lawrence and Lady Constance from the station in a taxi-cab in time for lunch and they went to the meeting in the same way... Lady Constance showed how she was first prejudiced against militant methods till gradually step by step she found she must go to prison herself. I suppose future generations will give honour to these noble people. When the cause becomes the fashion, we shall have the stupid people in it.

To Guildhall to hear Mrs. Despard on Theosophy and Women's Suffrage... She is a stately wrinkled old lady with a sense of humour, very earnest, but I understand our women preferring Mrs. Pankhurst as a leader. Despard is too Irish and evidently believes things because she "feels" them to be true... But Theosophy is a comfortable faith, you can make anything you like out of it and not understand any of it ...

Mrs. Despard was a great gardener and planted her holly with vigour and enjoyment and was very pleased with all the trees. She has been in prison three times, I think, for going on deputations, but our conifers are only for W.S.P.U. prisoners. There is something very attractive about her courteous manner, and she wears a mantilla and sandals and is plainly but handsomely dressed looking distinguished.

Miss Marsh planted her tree. She greatly dislikes her first name Charlotte and all her friends call her Charlie. Her label will be C. A. L. Marsh. (She also goes by the name of Calm). We liked very much what we saw of her. She is very fair with light hair and a pretty face. She is very tall ... She has a wonderful constitution and seems very well after all she has gone through. She has begun the late custom of not taking meat or chicken. She seems a very nice quiet girl. Annie and Jessie Kenney very happy but a trifle wild.

Linley had a nice letter from C. Marsh in Holloway awaiting her trial as they all refused bail. His birthday letter to her begging her not to take part in violence followed her there. Like the rest, they all think it their duty to take a large share of suffering.

I have written to Grace saying we cannot have Mrs. Pankhurst for a night as we promised now she is going about inciting to violence. Linley always told the Pankhursts how he felt on the subject.

Mary in Bath all day working for the Pankhurst cause - we wish she was not, but the young people all do this kind of thing now and I suppose it is evolution. The oldest supporters are fast leaving the WSPU especially those old in years, but people like Miss Lamb do not at all like Mrs. Pankhurst's present policy.

The Suffragettes have burnt down a large empty house on Lansdown in Bath. Of course one naturally suspects the Tollemaches.

I have sent Mrs. Fawcett £2. 2. 0. from Linley and myself as we are now joining the National Union. That Society the first of them all is doing well, and now they go against a Liberal Member who is an enemy to the Cause.

Mrs. Fawcett writes to say "Militancy is going against the principles for which we are contending, we are working against the principle of brute force and for the reign of reason and love".

The women under the W.S.P.U. management had a wonderful procession in London on Saturday, and the papers which used to be abusive are now praising them highly. Pankhurst was head and chief and Annie was one of the prominent ones... They are demanding war work and Lloyd George who received them graciously is only too glad to have them now.

The Reform Bill passed yesterday... Women cannot vote before the age of 30. Wives of men entitled to elect can vote as well as women in their own right and university women also have the franchise. Linley has a telegram from Lillian Forrester [nee Williamson] "Greetings. Votes for Women". Linley and I walked through the trees this afternoon and wondered how quietly this had come at last, but the war occupies all our thoughts.

File:Emily Blathwayt 1911. Blathwayt, Col Linley.jpg

This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or fewer.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1926.

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Women making history

We’ve got International Women’s Day coming up on March 8th.

A day when Bath’s historic Mayor’s Guides – a team of trained volunteers who show people around our World Heritage city every day – would be commemorating with special walks.

Joy Roberts – Chairwoman of the Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides.

But – says Corps Chairwoman, Joy Roberts – in an email to Bath Newseum – “Unfortunately we are all in lockdown but we hope to be back for March 8th, 2022.

Meanwhile, we remember lots of Bath women from history who have worked hard to improve the lives of all women everywhere.

Each year there is a theme to International Women’s Day .

This year it is ‘Choose to Challenge. ‘and we remember those women throughout history who gave challenged prevailing ideas of what women’s lives should be.

Eagle House, in Batheaston, owned by Colonel and Mrs Emily Blathwayt. Along with their daughter Mary at the beginning of the 1900s they opened up their house to suffragettes who were campaigning for Votes for Women, many of whom had been imprisoned and force fed.There were lots of women, Elsie Howey , Annie Kenny, Rose Lamartine Yates, Constance Bulwer Lytton,Charlotte Marsh, and many more. We thank them all.

Eleanor Coade 1733…..1821.Owned a London Factory which produced Coade Stone. She perfected the recipe to make a stong stone which architects used to make door and window surrounds, ornaments and statues. There is a beautiful example of Coade Stone in Bath. Look at the coat of arms above the chemist in Argyle st.

Eleanor Coade lived in a time when it was not seen important to educate girls and yet she became a business women.

Helen Hope 1860….1923 Became in 1909, the first female councillor in Bath and worked hard on Education , Housing, Libraries, and Child Employment.

Royal Crescent

Baroness Burdett Coutts 1814.. 1906.Lived at 16 Royal Crescent. Said to be the richest woman of her age but gave £315 away to lots of charities.Worked to alleviate child labour and poverty,medical equipment to Florence Nightingale, and much more.

We thank them all. There are many more.”

In her email to me Joy ended by reiterating: “We hope to be back to celebrate International Women’s Day 2022.”

Catalogue description Diaries and travelling diaries of Emily Marion Blathwayt

Diaries begin with resolution to keep a diary and description of the family: 'I suppose on average we get about £1,100 a year, but it varies.

We keep a cook (£26) and a house parlour maid (£20), and two men in the garden the gardener's wife washes for us once a fortnight. '. Diarist records that her son William, is epileptic, her daughter Mary 'slow with her head but very quick with practical things'

The diarist was a sympathiser with the suffragette movement, of which her daughter became an active member. The diaries frequently record remarks in sympathy with the working class (especially c. 1930), but there are otherwise few political comments

A few memoranda about the Spanish Civil War and the rise of Hitler and Mussolini are exceptions - 'it is a terrible time now. ', 1936 - and so is the comment '[Laura], like most others, thinks of the Duke of Windsor as a bad man, and is sorry for his mother', 18 May 1937

The diarist was born in 1852 in Duryard, Devon, the daughter of John Benson Rose. She married her cousin Lt Col Linley Blathwayt in 1874

Note: For more information see introduction for Lt Col Linley Wynter Blathwayt, Section D2659/23 above

The Bath Suffragettes who helped bring equality to the city

Today marks the 100th anniversary of British women being given the right to vote.

It’s something we now take for granted but in 1918 for the first time, mothers, daughters and sisters were able to have their say at the ballot box.

When the Representation of the People Act was passed on this day a century ago, the stage was set for a new century.

But getting that right was a struggle. Emmeline Pankhurst started the Women’s Social and Political Revolution Union in 1903 and suffragettes from Bath played a huge role in the fight for equality.

Here are three suffragettes from Bath who dedicated their lives to the movement, put together by Somerset Live.

Emily Blathwayt: A safe haven

Emily Blathwayt and Colonel Lindley started what was known as the Suffragette’s Rest at Eagle House in Batheaston, just outside Bath.

The house had extensive grounds and a summerhouse which suffragettes could stay in to recuperate after hunger striking and could plant a tree to commemorate their prison sentences.

At least 47 trees were reported to have been planted between April 1909 and July 1911. The house is now grade 2 listed.

Mary Blathwayt: Suffrage founder in Bath

Mary Blathwayt joined the NUWSS in 1906 and the local Bath Suffrage Society in 1907, however after meeting Annie Kenney, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence and Christabel Pankhurst at a suffragist meeting in Bristol late 1807, her allegiance was swayed towards the WSPU.

Helen Clark: early pioneer

Helen Clark signed the 1866 Suffrage petition and in 1872 spoke at a public meeting in Taunton organized by the Bristol and West of England National Society for Women’s Suffrage of which she was also a member. A quote from Helen Clark’s speech stated:

"Though it was perfectly right for a woman to dance at a public ball, the moment she ventured upon a public platform to advocate public peace, morality and justice, she was stepping out of her sphere”

Of her daughters, Alice Clark, Hilda Clark, Esther Bright Clothier and Margaret Clark Gillett were all active suffragists or sympathizers and her son Roger Clark was co-founder of the Friend’s League for Women’s Suffrage.

Nominate your 21st Century Suffragette hero

Bath Chronicle has teamed up with Amnesty International to allow readers to add their name to the map.

The interactive map, which will launch on International Women’s day on March 8, will be a symbol of the suffragettes’ legacy – proudly displaying how far we have come over the past century, but also highlighting how much life-changing work is still being carried out today in every corner of the country.


To nominate an amazing woman your local area, please visit www.amnesty.org.uk/suffragettespirit.

All women must have carried out work to help others their local area within the last 10 years.

All successful nominees will be contacted to give consent prior to being placed on the Suffragette Spirit Map of Britain.

This campaign has been funded by People’s Postcode Lottery.

The Bath Chronicle runs a WhatsApp group to help you keep up to date with the latest news. If you&aposd like to receive news alerts, save the number 07939 497390 to your phone - we recommend saving the contact as &aposBath Chronicle News&apos - then send the word NEWS to us via WhatsApp.

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Dr Emily Mann

Emily’s research centres on the relationship between visual culture and European expansion in the world through the growth of trading networks and territorial settlements, c.1550 to c.1800. At the same time as investigating historical processes and production, she is concerned with postcolonial/decolonial approaches and attitudes to empire’s material legacy.

Emily studied art history as an undergraduate at the Courtauld Institute of Art, where she also completed her MA (2003) and PhD (2015). She has taught and supervised courses on European art and architecture from 1550 to 1850 at the Courtauld, the University of Cambridge and the University of York, and has also worked as an editor for national newspapers and magazines. Before returning to the Courtauld to teach in September 2017, she was a Leverhulme-funded Research Associate with the Centre for the Political Economies of International Commerce at the University of Kent. There she expanded her doctoral research on the architectural enterprises of overseas trading corporations in the globalising early modern world, connecting the construction projects of the English East India Company in Asia to those undertaken by the Virginia, Bermuda, Royal African and other companies.

Major themes in Emily’s current work include the significance of mapping and building in making claims over land and commerce the representation of architecture in image and word and the relationship between land and sea in early-modern experience. With a specialism in the emerging English/British empire, her research takes a ‘connected’, comparative approach that engages with the broader context of inter-imperial competition and conflict, as well as cross-cultural encounters and exchange. Her research to date has involved archival and field work in the Caribbean, North America, West Africa and India as well as Europe, and collaborative work with archaeologists and historians approaching the subject from other disciplinary perspectives.

Sweeney Stickerwoman

In September 2018, at the height of #stickerwoman’s activity, a few trans-identified men started ‘warning’ on social media that ‘TERFS’ were hiding razor blades under stickers in the loos of a Manchester train station. Nearly a thousand people retweeted this absurdly unlikely claim, which turned out to be predictably unfounded.

Manchester police rushed to the scene of the public toilets supposedly involved, tweeting as they went.

Nothing was found, although the police didn’t initially respond to enquiries about the result of their search.

“Can you please confirm this was another malicious hoax?” asked one Twitter user.

“How many imaginary razor blades did your officers find in the end?” asked another.

“Did you find any razors behind the stickers?” asked a third. And so on.

“ I believe this to be a malicious hoax threat designed to cause distress and anxiety, and to stir up negative public sentiment against women’s rights activists. Can u help? ” asked @croneinamillion .

Manchester police remained silent.

In a last ditch attempt to make the accusation stick (geddit?) one person posted a picture of their injured finger –

“When I find the #TERF that put the razor blade behind the #stickerwoman sticker who did this to my finger there will be trouble” posted @shanuvian, alongside the ‘stolen’ picture.

– but a Google Image search by @notmygirl quickly found the picture had come from elsewhere.

Then @shanuvian was found to be a parody account… no wait… the account had been hacked… no wait… it had all been a terrible misunderstanding… and then it was gone.

A Manchester mumsnetter, BettyDuMonde, decided to visit the train station to see what was really going on:

“Had a quick chat with a lovely man on the ticket gates,’ posted Betty after her visit.

“He confirmed that the Transport police attended yesterday evening ‘looking for anti LGBT stickers’ in the toilets. Not only were there no razor blades they didn’t find any ‘anti LGBT’ stickers at all. All toilets were checked, men’s, women’s, disabled and staff.”

Later that evening, Manchester police issued a statement confirming that no razor blades – and no stickers either – had been found. I had a rummage around on Google and, interestingly, no razor blades have ever been proved to have been found under stickers in the UK. It’s just another urban myth and let’s hope it stays that way.

By the time the police disclaimer was issued, the photo and the rumour had been spread all over social media.

Remember – a lie can be halfway round the world before the truth has popped its stickers in its handbag.

As can be seen by this Tweet, below, from nearly two years later.

Archive for category Book of the Week

Woman and Her Sphere’ has had a long-standing interest in searching out – and cataloguing for sale – books and ephemera by and about women’s involvement in the First World War. With the 100th anniversary drawing nearer, radio and television producers already searching for new angles from which to approach the subject , and the Government heralding what is likely to be a long period of commemoration, it is, perhaps, appropriate to draw readers’ attention to some of the contemporary works that recorded ways in which women reacted to the disruption of their world. The first book I have chosen is:

Woman tram-conductor in Brighton

Gilbert Stone (editor), Women War Workers: accounts contributed by representative workers of the work done by women in the more important branches of war employment, George G. Harrap & Co, 1917. With a foreword by Lady Jellicoe.

The book comprises articles written by women working in new areas of employment. The chapters are titled:

Munition Work The Land A Postwoman’s Perambulations Banking ‘Fares Please!’ [work as a bus conductor] Deliverng the Goods [driver of butcher’s delivery cart] Nursing at the French Front The V.A.D. Nurse The Comforteers [working with ‘Concerts at the Front’] Welfare Work The Women of Paris During the German Advance, and ‘War Organisations for Women’ – giving statistical information, together with the chief purposes and aims of the more prominent organizations connected with Women’s War Work.

The book concludes with a very interesting chapter by Gilbert Stone in which he discusses the difficulties that women will face after the end of the war. ‘To coop them up at home without future, without outlook, without freedom, dependent on their father’s purse, yet with a memory of the wide world ever present, or, if possible it is a poor way of showing man’s sense of the meaning of the words Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.

The book – with 12 photographs – is surprisingly scarce. This copy is in good condition and is £60.

To buy: contact [email protected]

Book of the Week: Margaret Sanger, Woman And The New Race – Kitty Marion’s copy – rich with suffrage and Sanger associations

Posted by womanandhersphere in Book of the Week on October 2, 2012

Margaret Sanger, Woman And The New Race, published by Brentano’s (NY), 1921 (3rd printing) – Kitty Marion’s copy

Inscription on free front endpaper of this copy of Woman and the New Race

Margaret Sanger spearheaded the birth-control campaign in the US. In this book, first published in 1920, she writes: ‘The most far-reaching social development of modern times is the revolt of woman against sex servitude. The most important force in the remaking of the world is a free motherhood’. The Introduction to the book is by Havelock Ellis, one of several leading thinkers with whom she had an affair.

In October 1914 Margaret Sanger fled from the US to England while on bail for violating US postal obscenity laws – the charge was that of sending through the post copies of her radical feminist journal, The Woman Rebel, which advocated the use of contraception. She remained in England until October 1915. Coincidentally it was in October 1915 that Kitty Marion, a former, German-born, militant suffragette, set sail for the US. Once in New York she worked for many years for Margaret Sanger, her role being that of street seller of Sanger’s Birth Control Review.

In England in 1913 Kitty Marion had been sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for her part in the burning of the grandstand at the Hurst Park racecourse (as retaliation for the death of Emily Wilding Davison)- although, after going on hunger and thirst strike, she was released under the Cat and Mouse Act. It would appear that, on the run, she was one of the WSPU’s most active arsonists, although she evaded detection for much of the destruction she committed. In New York, on 14 October 1918, she was again given a prison sentence – this time for distributing Birth Control Review.

This particular copy of this book brings together these various histories. The free front endpaper bears the ink inscription, in Margaret Sanger’s handwriting – ‘Margaret Sanger, New York, Oct 14-1921.

Underneath this is written ‘zum Andenken! Kitty Marion’ [translated from German: In Memory!]. This inscription obviously commemorates the 3rd anniversary of Kitty Marion’s imprisonment – of which Margaret Sanger had at the time written ‘We glory in her deed’. I think the second part of the endpaper inscription may be Kitty Marion’s hand. For although the ink looks much the same as the Sanger message, I think the writing is different.

Yet another layer of suffrage association is revealed by the ownership signature, written faintly in pencil in the top right corner of the same page. It is that of Maud Fussell, another former member of the WSPU – and, again, one who suffered imprisonment.

My reconstruction of the history of the book is that it was signed by Margaret Sanger for Kitty Marion and was subsequently given by Kitty Marion to Maud Fussell. It was sold to me along with other books that had been in Maud Fussell’s possession.

The book is in good condition and is a particularly interesting association copy. Price £165 plus postage.

To buy: please contact me at [email protected]

Book of the Week: The Love-Letters of Mary Hays, ed A.F. Wedd

Posted by womanandhersphere in Book of the Week on September 18, 2012

The Love-Letters of Mary Hays (1779-1780), edited by her great-great-niece A.F. Wedd, Methuen 1925.

Tortured by her sensibility, for one blissful year 17-year old Mary Hays enjoyed – or suffered – a romance with John Eccles, a fellow non-conformist who lodged close by her family home in Southwark. Initially opposed by their families, the romance appeared to be approaching a happy conclusion when, shortly before the marriage, John died. However that year had produced an abundance of correspondence, letters treasured by Mary Hays for the rest of her life. In her Introduction to the edited version, her great-great-niece explains how:

‘After many years of oblivion, the papers from which this book has been compiled were discovered stored away in a cupboard of the little old house inhabited by the descendants of Mary Hays’s sister “Sister Dunkin”. The Love-Letters, with Mary’s own introduction and notes, had been copied, in the exquisite writing of her friend Mrs Collier, into two volumes, from which the handsome morocco covers, stamped with the initials M.H. and J.E., had fallen.. The other letters, dusty, stained, and nibbled by mice, but still tied in packets and labelled with the names of their famous authors, were contained in a small wooden chest.’

Is that not a researcher’s dream? For, 230 years later, Mary Hays attracts attention. Having struggling to surface from her great grief – it took about 10 years – she turned from letter to book writing, producing novels, polemics – including Appeal to the Men of Great Britain on Behalf of the Women, 1798 – in which she refutes the contemporary rationale for the subjection of women – and, most importantly, her six volumes of Female Biography, 1802. In these years she moved in the London literary and philosophical circles that included Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, letters from whom are printed at the end of Love-Letters.

By editing these letters Annie Frances Wedd played her part in the renaissance of Mary Hays. In her Introduction she noted that ‘Mary Hays is now unknown her books are unread even her connection with the literary celebrities of her day has been forgotten’. However, when the late 20 th -century ‘female turn’ in literary studies ensured that novels such as Hays’s Emma Courtney were reprinted, The Love-Letters was there to provide quotable material to place Mary Hays firmly in Mary Wollstonecraft’s circle. Miss Wedd’s Introduction is delightfully tart. She makes clear that, while feeling a sympathy with her forebear, she did not herself suffer from the ‘exquisite sensibility’ that rendered Mary Hays’s days so melancholy – noting, for instance, that when, after Eccles’ death, Mary upbraids ‘the nightingale for not joining in her plaint, as the month was August this was hardly to be expected’.

The book is in very good condition, is quite scarce – £45 (plus postage). To buy contact: [email protected]

Book of the Week: A Nest of Suffragettes in Somerset

A Nest of Suffragettes in Somerset: Eagle House, Batheaston by B.M. Willmott Dobbie for The Batheaston Society, 1979. Soft covers – very good condition (with a newspaper cutting of an obituary of Bristol suffragette, Victoria Lidiard, laid in). £26 (plus postage) For sale – from my stock of books and ephemera about the suffrage movement. To buy – email [email protected]

‘Annie’s Arboretuem’ and the Suffragette Rest

The story of the Blathwayt family – Col Linley Blathwayt, his wife Emily and daughter Mary -who lived at Eagle House, Batheaston, where for some years they offered a haven to WSPU activists. Annie Kenney – and her sisters – were particular favourites.

Col Blathwayt organised the planting of trees to commemorate visits by both suffragists and suffragettes – such as Lady Constance Lytton.

Lady Constance Lytton photographed by Col Blathwayt

‘Annie’s Arboreteum’ and ‘Pankhurst Pond’ were just two of the features created on the estate. Col Blathwayt was a keen photographer and many of the photographs he took of visiting suffragettes are included in this book. The text includes extracts from the diaries that the Blathwayts kept and which provide us with such a disingenuous view of some of the leading suffragette personalities

For more about Eagle House (and a little about Rose Lamartine Yates and Dorset Hall, Merton, of whom, coincidentally, I wrote in yesterday’s post) see here. For ‘Suffragettes in Bath’ see here. The diaries of Col. Blathwayt, Mrs Emily Blathwayt, and dear Mary Blathwayt, who I describe in the Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide, as the ‘Mr Pooter of the suffrage movement’, are held in Gloucestershire Archives.

Book of the Week: Cairnes: Political Essays – Millicent Fawcett’s copy

Posted by womanandhersphere in Book of the Week on August 21, 2012

Cairnes, Political Essays, Macmillan, 1873.

Presentation copy to Millicent Fawcett

The Irish economist John Cairnes had long been a friend of Henry Fawcett, both part of the Blackheath circle centring on John Stuart Mill. When Millicent Fawcett (aged 23) published her ‘Political Economy for Beginners’ in 1870 Cairnes took it seriously, reviewed it and wrote to her ‘I have just finished my study of your useful little book and send you by this post my notes upon it. You will find I have some serious controversies with you.’ Three years later, when he published ‘Political Essays’ , he sent Millicent a copy – inscribing it ‘MG Fawcett from the author’.

Millicent Fawcett’s bookplate

A ‘From the Author’ slip has survived the handling of the last 140 years – and Millicent Fawcett has added her delightful bookplate to the front pastedown. However, an inquisitive inspection reveals that not all the pages are cut.

British Suffragette History: Come for the Democracy, Stay for the Lesbian Drama

2018 marks the centenary year of women’s right to vote in the UK. Except that it doesn’t really it marks a hundred years since some women could vote. And even that’s not true, as a handful of women had been able to vote centuries earlier. What’s more, the UK wasn’t even the shape we know it today.

You see, it’s complicated, which is a strong indication that queer women must have been involved. Also: drama, love triangles, straight-girl crushes and a whole lot of smashing windows, the patriarchy, and very probably young girls’ hearts.

As with any rummaging through history for queer women’s stories, it’s rare to find concrete words to confirm any individual’s sexuality. Even though the suffrage movement is one of the best-documented areas of women’s history, for the most part those looking at it either haven’t cared to search for evidence of queerness, or haven’t lived the experiences that make it impossible to read some of these women’s stories without screaming “that’s so gay!”

Mention of “companions” often seems like the equivalent of “gal pals” in Victorian and Edwardian parlance however, it’s just as likely to mean life-partners of thirty years as a couple of women who happened to turn up to a march together. In women’s own autobiographies, they keep things vague enough about significant others to not arouse suspicion and it’s highly likely that many women who did make open declarations of love for each other would never have twigged that they might not be 100% heterosexual. Let us look back, so that we may process what they were not able to, and admire the great achievements of these fearless soldiers in petticoats. And some in breeches too.

Women’s votes had been discussed — infrequently — in Britain since the 1700s, but the issue came into focus on the back of the The Great Reform Act of 1832, which made sweeping changes to the country’s electoral system for the first time in centuries. One of those changes was to limit parliamentary voting to “male persons.” Tradition and the steep land-owning requirements meant that there were just a handful of cases where women had actually been able to cast a vote, but this was the first time that their exclusion was codified. Later that year, the first petition from a woman asking for the right to vote was laughed out of parliament.

Over the next decades, women began to organise and form local suffrage societies, some of which came together in 1867 after another vote extension that excluded women, to form the first national group: The National Society for Women’s Suffrage. On its council sat prominent suffrage activist Frances Power Cobbe, who also campaigned for animal rights and was the proud owner of a dog named Hajjin, who definitely looked more statesmanlike than all the male politicians of the time.

Frances (L), Mary (R), and their son (middle).

As we all know, a dog needs two mums, and in this case mum number was Frances’ life partner, Welsh sculptor Mary Lloyd. Lloyd had inherited an estate from an aunt (as well as gifts from famed probable lesbians, the Ladies of Llangollen), and her position as a landowner gave her some clout when signing the many, many petitions that would be put to parliament.

Also active in this nascent period was Edith Simcox, an intellectual, journalist and early feminist who infused her many writings with women-centred politics. She had a long-standing unrequited love for novelist George Eliot, but instead of wallowing in angst, she funneled her passions into various activist and trade unionist organisations, and founding a radical women’s cooperative business.

Joining the movement in the 1870s was Jessie Craigen, unusual for being a working-class woman speaking confidently to large crowds, when most organisers were well-educated, middle- and upper-class women. While her passion and unapologetically ungainly appearance connected her with new audiences, it put her at odds with the leadership. In 1881, she started a relationship with fellow suffragist Helen Taylor, who had also become alienated from the movement because of her support for an independent Ireland, which at that time was governed by the British parliament. Eventually, this same issue would cause the couple to split, and it was just one of many political concerns that intertwined with women’s suffrage to if not outright hinder it, then complicate matters.

With industrialisation transforming the country and its population, voting rights were continually reviewed and reformed over the course of a century. The Labour movement was gathering steam in major industrial centres, and also had suffrage at its core. However, with millions of workers unable to vote, their campaigns centred on extending rights to more men, with promises to include women’s votes frequently made and forgotten. Although this seems a bit “what about the mens” there was a valid concern that a movement focused on achieving equality with men would be pretty worthless, if only the richest men (and therefore richest women) could vote.

Yet another bill passed in 1884 to lavish the vote upon millions more men, and zero women. In 1897, suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett (soon to be the first woman recognised with a statue in London’s Parliament Square) united the many sprawling groups into the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), and campaigned hard to force change for many women’s issues, such as sex work and rights for widows. But on the main matter of votes for women, they had achieved nothing.

In the early 1900s, a new movement started to take shape, borne of both a general frustration with the lack of progress, and one specific incident of men being the worst that typified the attitudes of the time.

Emmeline Pankhurst had been involved in women’s suffrage since she was a young teenager in Manchester, and had founded the Women’s Franchise League in 1889, along with her suffrage-supporting husband, Richard. The couple’s main political focus was the Independent Labour Party (ILP), until Richard’s death in 1898. When Emmeline discovered that a hall built as a memorial to Richard was to be used for a men-only ILP branch, and neither her nor her daughters would be allowed in, it was the spur she needed to break away from the Labour movement to focus on becoming the uber-Mommi of suffragettes.

In 1903, Emmeline founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). This was a bold new women-only organisation that promised “deeds, not words” in the pursuit of equal voting rights. Emmeline’s second-in-command was her favourite daughter Christobel, whose passionate public speaking helped recruit many women to the cause (and her bed).

It was with one such romantic comrade, Annie Kenney, that Christobel took the first militant action in 1905, heckling a politician at a public meeting and spitting at a policeman in order to get arrested. This is where the wider movement started to fracture the pre-existing suffragists didn’t approve of using violent methods, but a succession of powerful acts of defiance helped attract a whole new swathe of fervent supporters to the WSPU.

“[Annie Kenney is] a woman of refinement and of delicacy of manner and of speech. Her physique is slender, and she is intensively nervous and high strung. She vibrates like a harpstring to every story of oppression.”

– Josephine Butler on how Kenney got the ladies

It also attracted heaps of criticism in the press, and it was the Daily Mail that first dubbed the militant activists “suffragettes” as a derogatory put-down, because that paper has been the worst since forever. The WSPU instantly reclaimed the title as their own, even naming one of their newspapers “The Suffragette.”

In 1906, the WSPU relocated to London, to get in the face of the government. Frequent demonstrations and protests outside parliament led to numerous arrests — over 1000 women would find themselves imprisoned over the next dozen years.

Both the suffragettes and non-militant suffragists understood the value of publicity, and early in 1907, queer artist Mary Lowndes created the Artists’ Suffrage League (ASL) to create posters and propaganda in support of the movement. Her first major undertaking, along with other queer artists such as May Morris (daughter of Arts & Crafts legend William Morris), was to design dozens of banners for a women’s march planned by the NUWSS to coincide with the opening of Parliament in February, that would see large numbers of middle-class women taking to the streets for the first time. The march succeeded in raising public awareness, and became a standard part of peaceful protests, with numbers swelling up to half a million at the WSPU Women’s Sunday event the next summer.

More propaganda in the form of Suffrage Plays were written and put on in theatres across the land to spread the Strong Female Lead trope and satirise narrow-minded anti-suffragists, aka men. The Actresses’ Franchise League was formed in 1908 to help stage and promote these plays, with queer women such as Cicely Hamilton, Edith Craig and Chris St John key players. The hyper-industrious Hamilton also formed the Women’s Writers Suffrage League, to promote equality between men and women writers, and provided the words to “March of the Women,” the suffragette anthem composed by radical lesbian composer Ethel Smyth.

Between them, the ASL and WSPU were queens of merch, who knew that the way to appeal to any right-minded woman’s wallet is with cats, cake and boardgames.

WSPU founder Emmeline Pankhurst (L), ASL creator Mary Lowndes (R), and their meow pal (middle).

All these publicity efforts culminated in May 1909 at a fortnight-long Women’s Exhibition organised by the WSPU to highlight women’s achievements and capabilities, show that suffragettes weren’t all violent harridans, and provide a forum for debate. There were even guided tours of replica prison cells by former inmates to show how female political prisoners were treated (answer: badly).

Mostly though, the event was to raise cash, or as Emmeline Pankhurst said: “It is intended to help the most wonderful movement the world has ever seen. A movement to set free that half of the human race that has always been in bondage, to give women the power to work out their own salvation – political, social and industrial.”

Not long after the exhibition, the WSPU increased the scope of their direct action. The Pankhursts calculated that the rich land-owners who could influence change would be far more sensitive to attacks on their property than on human beings, and sanctioned any destructive protest as long as it didn’t cause any physical harm to a person. A lot of this action centred on window smashing in central London, and one of the earliest to be imprisoned for this in 1909 was Mary Sophia Allen, a lesbian who, ironically, would later go on to become one of Britain’s first women police officers.

Many women in the movement were wary of the militancy and leadership cult that was building up in the WSPU. Several members had already broken away in 1907 to form the Women’s Freedom League (WFL), disappointed that the suffragettes’ organisation and policies continued to centre middle class women, and after Emmeline Pankhurst essentially declared the WSPU her own personal autocracy, with Christabel in charge of strategy.

Their sole focus was to get women’s votes equal to men’s, with scant regard for class or race. Although there was no race-related wording in suffrage legislation, its basis in land ownership and privilege made it inherently discriminatory. No organisations are on record as having considered any of these implications, and indeed the prevailing attitudes of middle-class women of the time were very colonial, with a stated aim of achieving suffrage so they might “help” women of colour in other countries.

“She was, I thought, very unusual looking and beautiful…I invited her to come with me for a fortnight, with the result that she stayed thirty-five years.”

– Louisa Martindale summing up how to U-Haul, Edwardian-style

There was also a suspicion that the passion among the WSPU organisers might be spilling over from the political to the personal, articulated by WFL founder Teresa Billington-Greig: “It is true that there was an immediate and strong emotional attraction between Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence and Annie Kenney… indeed so emotional and so openly paraded that it frightened me. I saw it as something unbalanced and primitive and possibly dangerous to the movement.”

While there’s no concrete evidence beyond hearsay about Kenney and Pethick-Lawrence’s relationship, it is true that the Pankhursts surrounded themselves with a formidable queer coterie at the WSPU.

    Treasurer and founder of Votes for Women newspaper Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence who, as well as her attraction to Annie Kenney wrote gushing tracts comparing Christobel to Joan of Arc.

Their chauffeur Vera Holme and her girlfriend Evelina Haverfield.

Naomi “Micky” Jacob, seller of Votes for Women, friend of Vera Holme and eventually a prolific romantic novelist

Emmeline’s personal doctor Flora Murray, who lived with Louisa Garrett Anderson, daughter of Britain’s first qualified female doctor and niece of Millicent Fawcett, and ex-girlfriends with Scottish suffragist leader Elsie Inglis.

Grace Roe, intimate with Christobel and deputy organiser to Annie Kenney

Rachel Barrett, editor of “The Suffragette” newspaper, and partner of actress and suffragette Ida Wylie.

Ethel Smyth, who formed a deep, unrequited crush on Emmeline after they shared time together at Holloway Prison, and once ran away to Egypt to try and escape her feelings

Mary Blathwayt, who financed the WSPU and had a relationship with Annie Kenney

At this point, if you’re wondering why it’s important to believe these suffragettes were sleeping with every other suffragette, it’s because they were. Here, I made you a chart.

Despite the strong rule of the Pankhursts, many of the militant acts carried out by suffragettes were independently planned by small groups or individuals. If successful, their tactics would go on to be adopted across the movement. Protests ranged from bombing golf courses, burning down unoccupied houses (including that of the Chancellor’s), and smashing the glass case protecting the Crown Jewels. Margaret Haig Thomas did not let being a Viscountess stop her from throwing herself at the Prime Minister’s car and bombing postboxes during this time she met fellow militant Helen Archer and the two went on to live together.

While the suffragettes just about stayed within the lines of harming no person, it would not have been difficult for bombings and arson to get out of control, and it’s hard not to see these acts as terrorism.

Many suffragists moved to distance themselves from the WSPU, even those that had earlier expressed sympathy. Such women included lesbian couple and staunch suffragists Eva Gore-Booth and Esther Roper, who had been friends with Christabel Pankhurst at university in Manchester, and Catherine Duleep Singh, an Indian princess who shared her life with her former-governess Lina, and had been badgered by her sister into donating to the WSPU, despite her own non-violent leanings.

The police treated captured suffragettes with increasing brutality on the back of their militancy. Out of protest for not being recognised as a political prisoner, one suffragette spontaneously began a hunger strike in June 1909, leading to an early release. The tactic was quickly adopted by other women, until the government retaliated by force-feeding them. This policy was hugely unpopular with the public, and the WSPU capitalised on the publicity, and celebrated survivors with Hunger Strike Medals.

WSPU supporter Mary Blathwayt made her family home, Eagle House, available to released suffragettes as a place for them to recuperate after the gruelling physical torture of force feeding. The house became known as the “Suffragette’s Retreat” where many visitors seemed to partake of a special kind of recovery in Annie Kenney’s bed, as jealously recorded in Mary Blathwayt’s diary.

This is the way, it’s the way that we live…

In 1912, Emmeline sent out a rallying cry for WPSU members to take part in a coordinated window smashing campaign across London, resulting in a large number of arrests, including lesbian couple Lettice Floyd and Annie Williams. Faced with ever-more prisoners, but wanting to avoid force-feeding, in 1913 the government put together new legislation to allow temporary release of hunger striking women, only to re-arrest them once they were well enough, nicknamed The Cat and Mouse Act.

Facing constant danger of re-arrest, the WSPU set up a “Bodyguard” of thirty women, organised by Grace Roe and trained in jiu jitsu by the small and incredibly dangerous Edith Garrud. Many of the members were queer, like Olive Bartels, “close friend” of Grace Roe, and they were tasked with protecting the leadership, not only physically, but with decoys, disguises and a variety of other subterfuge familiar to any woman desperate to avoid her ex-girlfriend at a party.

1913 also saw perhaps the most iconic moment of the suffragette campaign, when Emily Wilding Davison travelled to the Epsom Derby on June 13th, ostensibly to attach a “Votes for Women” banner to the King’s horse, who was racing in the main event. She was trampled by the horse, dying in hospital a few days later. The event shocked the nation, and hit home the lengths that women would go to to achieve equality.

My scant memory of how British women’s suffrage was taught in school was: “There were some peaceful suffragists, and violent suffragettes, and then a woman threw herself under a horse at the Derby and then women got the vote.” Unsurprisingly, things were not quite that straightforward. There was an outpouring of grief and a giant women’s march after Davison’s death and martyrdom, but still little change.

It was the outbreak of The Great War in 1914 that signalled a step-change in the suffragettes’ approach. The WSPU — with Emmeline and Christabel exiled in Paris to avoid arrest — agreed a truce with the government. All imprisoned hunger strikers were granted clemency, and in exchange the WSPU ceased all protest. In fact, the WSPU summarily put all efforts into supporting the government and the War, despite most suffrage organisations taking a pacifist line.

During the war, many queer women that had bonded from their suffrage work now directly helped the war effort, with Elsie Inglis establishing medical units both in Britain and Europe, with her team including Evelina Haverfield, Vera Holme and Cicely Hamilton.

“Sir, Everyone seems to agree upon the necessity of putting a stop to Suffragist outrages but no one seems certain how to do so. There are two, and only two, ways in which this can be done. Both will be effectual. 1. Kill every woman in the United Kingdom. 2. Give women the vote. Yours truly, Bertha Brewster.”

– Letter to the Daily Telegraph in 1913

By the time the war ended in 1918, it was evident that Britain would need to drastically reform voting rules. Between the loss of life on the battlefronts and returning soldiers being unable to vote because of draconian residency requirements, the country was facing a situation where it would not have enough voters to hold a meaningful election. Finally, the government voted in the Representation of the People Act, which for the first time extended the right for certain women to vote, specifically: all property renters, including wives of householders, women householders and university graduates over the age of 30. Universal suffrage was granted ten years later, in 1928.

It’s an open question as to whether the militant actions of the suffragettes helped or hindered the fight for women’s votes. Many other countries before and after achieved this equality landmark without anywhere near the same level of civil disobedience. Their techniques, while inspiring when viewed through the long telescope of history, would be terrifying if played out today. Perhaps the fear of returning to that state of warfare was a driver in the government’s thinking, and perhaps their ferocity in protest and capability during the war helped revolutionise the perception of women, making them seem more worthy of the vote.

What’s not in doubt is the many valuable contributions that a host of queer women made during the long and turbulent fight for equality.

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Death and legacy

Emily Blathwayt lived at Eagle House until her death in 1940. The archive of Emily's ⎗] and Mary's personal diaries and the many photographs by Linley remain as an intimate record of the movement and its supporters. ⎘] The trees that were planted at Eagle House were removed to make way for a housing estate. Other trees have been planted along with replacements for lost memorials. An art work was created to note the impact of Eagle House and of Annie Kenney (hosted by Emily Blathwayt) created by artist Jeni Wood in 2016. ⎙]

Watch the video: Suffragettes and Emily Davison (January 2022).