Item 14 - Draft of a letter from Lady Constance Lytton to Millicent Garrett Fawcett

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PETH/9/14

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Draft of a letter from Lady Constance Lytton to Millicent Garrett Fawcett

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  • 3 Dec. 1912 (Creation)

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3 folded sheets

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(Place of writing not indicated.)—Questions her public expression of confidence in Lloyd George with regard to a referendum on women’s suffrage. Objects strongly to remarks by Arthur Henderson indicating that his consent to the conference resolution is conditional on the abstinence of women from violence.

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Transcript

Dec 3. 1912.

Dear Mrs. Fawcett,

Many thanks for several letters. I have been ill—incapacitated in bed—or would have answd you sooner. Baby nephew {1} is happily out of danger. Brother Vic was due home about Feb 14 but I hope may come before that.

I gather from your public utterances of renewed confidence in Mr Lloyd George that you have silenced his recent suggestion that the H. of Commons should be put up to move that no W. Suff. measure should be passed without a referendum, that the Govt should then refuse the referendum but accept the proposal as regards W Suff. thus clearing a way for the Ref. Bill to go thro’ without V. for W. I understood this from the acct you read me of interviews with Mr Lloyd George. I understood from your comments that this suggestion, coming direct from Mr Lloyd George[,] had shaken your confidence in him. It seems strange to me that you should be counselling your audiences to a reliance you no longer share.

Thankyou for passing on the remarks of Mr Arthur Henderson. (You do not mention his name but I gather the letter you quote was from him).

My first impression was—What a pity if his consent to the resolution was conditional, that he did not say so at the conference. If he had added a rider “provided there is absence of violence on the part of women themselves.” It would have sounded so consistent, so reasonable, so generous. Does he think it would have been greeted with a round of cheers by those representatives of labour men who, in spite of their votes, in spite of their party[,] hold {2} off to stand for their interests in Parlt, in spite of their financial resources—so much greater than those of women—& the power that always accrues to these (power of combination, of education, of social & pol. influence) yet have recourse to violence at every election, at every strike, on every occasion when their interests are seriously frustrated, & this violence is injurious both to property & human beings in a way never attempted by women.

And what did Labour men do to ensure fair play for women in 1832, 1867 & 1884, through all the long drawn struggle of over 40 years during which there was no question of “violence” of any kind on the part of the women. When “militancy” began in 1906–1909 when again there was no violence from women what did the Labour party (as a party) do to secure V. for W. should be made a Govt measure {3} [,] that women’s deputations should be recd, that they should not be imprisoned, that if imprisoned they should be treated as pol. offenders.

When women hunger strikers (surely that is not “violence”?) {4} were fed by force, with barbaric cruelty, during weeks & months of imprisonment, what did the Labour party men do then to prevent this barbarity—on the bodies of women who had fought for the very liberties the Labour Party excite {5} to uphold? I have been told they passed a resolution of thanks to Jane Warton {6} because being disguised as a workg woman I showed up class injustice. Why could they not stand out themselves for their helpless women comrades? Only a thousand men in Dundee who gathered together outside the prison where the first hunger strikers were in Scotland & proclaimed their determination that this horrible thing should not be done in their town,—that was enough to prevent forcible feeding through the whole of Scotland.

When after the last Genl Election when the Labour members held the Govt. in the hollow of their hand—when the women fighters cried a truce—what did the Labour party do to secure either a Govt. measure or the passing of a private Bill for women—When Mr. Henderson as a Member of the Adult dep. to Mr Asquith in the autumn was greeted with the information that the Ref. Bill wd contain no Votes for W. only more votes for men—how did he repudiate that. If he & his party had acted with loyalty to the women then (No Votes for Women[,] no Home Rule, no Budget, no W. disestablishment is all they need have said) there wd. have been no need for any more fighting on the part of women.

And these good gentlemen—some of them—venture upon this afterthought of a condition to their present good will. I only hope they will say it not only to you in a private letter—But at their public meetings.

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{1} Probably Alexander Edward John Bulwer-Lytton, Viscount Knebworth.

{2} This word is indistinct.

{3} These two words are indistinct.

{4} The brackets round these five words, which occupy a whole line in the MS, have been supplied.

{5} This is the apparent reading.

{6} Lady Constance Lytton’s pseudonym.

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