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Letter from Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence to the Women’s Social and Political Union, with a postscript to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

Holloway Prison.—Is encouraged by news of their fund-raising and by the progress of the paper (Votes for Women). Urges them to make a success of the Albert Hall Demonstration and to wear the Union’s colours at all times.

(Written on a printed form. A piece of paper has been pasted over the postscript. Cf. 7/166.)

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Transcript

Holloway Prison. March 26th 1909.

My dear Friends, & Fellow Members of our beloved Union.

I send you greeting & love. I am with you constantly in thought & spirit & desire. Very soon I shall be with you in the flesh. I have felt & I still feel the support of your thoughts & good wishes. You must know that I have not seen a newspaper since I came here. I am very ignorant as to how the world is wagging. In Holloway “nobody knows nothing” so it would be quite useless to ask questions. Knowing nothing can be carried to a fine art. But across the night of oblivion glorious flashes of good tidings have come to me. One was the Report sent for my signature. Great was my satisfaction to know that we had raised the whole £20,000 during the year. That we should be very near to our mark, I felt sure, before I came here, but “Oh the little more, & how much it is; The little less, & what worlds away.” {1} In our Union we pride ourselves on attaining our standards! Another great joy to the heart of your Treasurer was to hear the sum raised in donations & promises during Self Denial Week. Eight thousand pounds is a good start at the beginning of the new financial year towards the fifty thousands we mean to realize unless we get the vote before the end of next February. I seem to hear some of you gasp “Fifty thousand pounds”! I will tell you how it is to be raised. We have proved, have we not, that we ourselves are good for £20,000? We gave our utmost last year, we shall go on giving our utmost. The remaining £30,000 has to come from a public not yet touched. And what we have to do without a moments delay, every one of us, is to go about everywhere preaching the gospel of Votes for Women & bringing as many people as we can into the Movement. Especially must new people be brought by all our members to our great Meetings. And now I come to the main point of this letter which I write to you from my prison cell. I have a great great wish. And if I tell it to you, I know that you will fulfil it. I want the Albert Hall Demonstration on April 29th to be the greatest success, the most magnificent triumph that our Agitation has ever yet achieved. I beg every member in London to make the success of this Meeting her individual responsibility & to concentrate from now all her energies upon it. Take the tickets & sell them to friends. Let each one be responsible for a certain number & for their value in cash. If you cannot sell them all in the usual way, persuade some wealthy friend to purchase tickets which can be given to those who cannot afford to buy for themselves. But make up your mind that you will dispose of 6, 10, 20 or 50 tickets, as the case may be. The occasion is a particularly significant one. Women suffragists from every civilized country in the world wil be representing their respective organizations, at the International Suffragist Congress in London. And this Albert Hall Meeting is to give them welcome in the name of the Women’s Social & Political Union. They have most cordially accepted our invitation to be present, & a certain number of seats have been reserved for them. It is also a Demonstration, in honour of all our members who have suffered imprisonment for the sake of women’s emancipation. They will come from the North & the South, the East & the West to the centre of reunion in the Albert Hall. They will wear their prison dress. Seats immediately behind the speakers will be reserved for them. Many interesting developments will be revealed as time goes on. It is to be a field day of the Militant Movement. I am allowed only one sheet of paper for this my one monthly letter. I would say more about this matter, but space forbids. Will you, dear women in this Union[,] read into my brief words all that my heart could wish.

I want to tell you how delighted I am that the Paper—our Paper {2}—is developing so rapidly. I hear it has reached 21,000 already. I hope it will reach 25,000 before I come back. That will be another joy. My Three Wishes! How splendidly they have been carried out. With all my heart I thank you all.

Oh to see our flag again! To salute the colours! My eyes yearn for them. I comfort myself with the thought that my prison dress is green, my prison cap is white. Would that my apron were purple. My library card is faintly purplish! But one lives on small things in Holloway. And how ones perceptions & appreciations are intensified. How one learns the meanings & the values of the ordinary blessings & beauties of life which one is so apt to take for granted. Colour, music, sun & stars & above all human friendship & social intercourse. Wear the colours always, if not for your own sake, then for the sake of those who are in prison. I am convinced that wearing the colours is one of the best ways of attracting strangers to this Movement. Curiosity & interest once stimulated, you know how quickly the rest follows. A large number of the deputation who went to prison with me, were quite recent converts, who a few short weeks ago would have scouted the possibility of going to prison. Ours is such a wonderful Movement. Nothing seems too much to hope, too great to believe & expect. I must say Goodbye to you. When you read this letter of mine, there will be only two more weeks to pass before the joy of reunion is ours. Meanwhile, as I sit here in my prison cell, I know that in the world outside, it is Spring time. Life is pushing its way through the clods. Life is rising like a tide through stem & branch, soon to overflow & bring a flood of beauty over the face of the world. Yes & there is a stirring of new life in the heart of the human race & especially in the heart of the world’s womanhood. I feel it in our Movement, I see the blossoming of new hope, new faith, new love, new courage, new energy. I know that in the cycle of the world’s life, a new Spring is coming[,] has indeed come. This knowledge is my great joy. It is the joy which we all share & which none can take from us. We will give body & soul & all that we have to minister to this new life. We will accomplish the purpose to which we have been called. Yours in the strong bond of fellowship which unites us all in this Movement.

Emmeline Pethick Lawrence.

[A piece of paper has been pasted over the following postscript, the text of which was copied out onto another sheet (PETH 7/166):]

Dear Husband. Truly there is some great power of love working for us. Dear Marie’s visit was quite wonderful. For the first time I really felt a bit strained today. The sight of Marie broke the tension & I am quite right now. I almost felt as though the dear dear Daddy {3} sent her. He said his spirit would be with me. Can we doubt that all will be well always? Can Chris as well as Freda ride with me on the 17th. I should love to have them both. Marie tells me how Chris has felt it. Give my love to all my dear circle of relations & friends. My heart’s love to you dearest.

E. P. L.

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The letter is written on a printed form. The details entered by hand include, besides what is printed above, the prisoner’s number (2141) and name, and a reference number. There are a few later annotations, which were evidently made in the process of preparing the text for printing.

{1} A quotation from Browning’s poem ‘By the Fire-Side’, varied slightly.

{2} Votes for Women, launched in February 1907.

{3} Mark Guy Pearse.

Biographical note on Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Transcript

Biography of Mrs Pethick Lawrence

Mrs Pethick Lawrence realised when quite a child the very deplorable position of unprotected women in this country[,] especially those who belong to the working class. Upon the completion of her education she offered her services to the West London Mission then controlled by the Rev. Hugh Price Hughes and became one of the “sisters of the people”. She helped to found and organise the Esperance Club for working girls which has since established a reputation all over the country for its revival of folk dance and song.

Incidentally she had to do with many sad and difficult cases of human misery and she was often appealed to by the police on behalf of unfortunate women. In connection with these cases she attended Police Courts and became responsible to the magistrate for the woman prisoner in the dock.

After five years work in the West London Mission she went to live in a block of artisan buildings and tried the experiment of how much a working girl could live upon. She decided that the minimum was 15/– a week, whereupon she started with her friend Miss Mary Neal a co-operative dress-making establishment which paid its workers a miminim† wage of 15/– a week for an eight hour’s day. Several other schemes have been launched with her co-operation, including a holiday hotel for working girls at Littlehampton. Her marriage in 1901 did not put an end to any of these interests and the last twenty-two years of her life have been devoted to the social service of the community.

But every attempt at social and economic reform only drove more deeply home her conviction that so long as women were politically outside the pale of citizenship, the necessary leverage to life {1} working women and girls out of the morass was lacking.

In 1906 she became the first National Treasurer of the Women’s Social and Political Union. In the October of that year she suffered imprisonment for taking part in a protest in the lobby of the House of Commons. In 1909 she was arrested for leading a deputation for the purpose of presenting a Petition to the Prime Minister. In 1911 she was again imprisoned for a repetition of this offence. In 1912 she was arrested on a charge of Conspiracy and sentenced to imprisonment. On this occasion she adopted the Hunger Strike as a protest against the prison treatment and was forcibly fed. In the October of that year she was requested by Mrs Pankhurst to resign from the W.S.P.U. as Mrs Pankhurst had decided upon a development of the militant policy and did not want to be hampered by a Committee.

Great pressure was put upon Mrs Pethick Lawrence to found another Suffrage Organisation. To this she responded by forming the “Votes for Women” Fellowship—not a Suffrage Society, but an association of co-workers and Fellows to further a common enterprise, namely the establishment of the paper “Votes for Women” as the expression of the Suffrage Movement in its wide catholicity of ideal and purpose.

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Carbon copy of a typed original. ‘About 1912’ has been added at the top of the first sheet by hand, as well as the file number ‘2069’.

{1} A slip for ‘lift’.

† Sic.

Letter from Evelyn Sharp to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

The Cottage, Cold Ash, Berks.—Suggests she should only be paid for only half her holiday, as she will not be returning as assistant-editor (of Votes for Women). Is sorry to end her connection with the paper, and is grateful for what she has learnt.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

Women’s Cosmopolitan Club, 133 East 40th Street (New York).—Is recovering from tonsilitis. Discusses the plans for her lecture tour, and refers to the kindness of her hosts.

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Transcript

Women’s Cosmopolitan Club, 133 East 40th Street
Oct 27. 1914

My dearest. Just a little postscript to my letter yesterday. The doctor came yesterday as soon as I had posted it—& I was bundled into bed—reporters were sent away & the receiver taken off my telephone!

Susan was suddenly transformed from secretary into nurse—a part she plays most excellently. The unpleasant symptoms began at once to yield to the treatment & I feel quite on top of them already. Tonsilitis is the name of the malady.

Though I haven’t been in New York twenty four hours, I feel I am going to like it immensely & am going to have a simply ripping time. My lectures are not yet arranged owing to various hitches—that I neednt explain. But I saw Feakins yesterday & we got on very well[.] I like him as a business man very much. He thinks my fee a very moderate one, & would have taken me on at 250—at the same time, things are very awkward just now. 1. Shortness of time for arrangements[.] (2.) People financially hit by the war. (3.) November given up to the Elections & campaign in full swing everywhere—nobody any time to take on anything till they are over. (4.) C.P. {1} & Annie Kenney speaking, & queering the pitch. So far as I can find out neither of the above are bothering to make any business arrangement.

If I am having a good time & am asked by Feakins to give him a chance by staying over December, would you object? I dont want you to be or to feel deserted, but since the voyage is such an ordeal—(it was 7 days sheer purgatory this time) it seems a pity now I am here, not to stay if I’m wanted. Should it suit your work or your plans to come out here later on, I believe you would enjoy it, for I am quite sure I am going to have many friends here. I cant tell you how sweet & kind everybody is to me. The only person with whom I cannot “blossom” is Mrs S. Blatch. Its a case of “didn’t like her”. But I am not going to let that stand in the way! She can be very very useful to me & I mean to please her, & do her credit. There is a crowd of splendid girls, like the Lewisohns & Alice Wright. And numbers of interesting men & women who are inviting me to their homes. My quarters here are perfection—absolute comfort & harmony—no ugly luxury—just like the dear Lewisohns themselves. I found beautiful roses in my room & a sweet note from them. But they came after I had been bundled to bed yesterday & Susan had been instructed by the doctor to keep everybody outside. I shall send you all the cuttings I can get before post time. You might send them on to V. f. W. {2} & perhaps Miss Offley will afterwards collect & keep them. Your very happy comfortable & lucky

Patz.

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{1} Christabel Pankhurst.

{2} Votes for Women.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

Women’s Cosmopolitan Club, 133 East 40th Street (New York).—Has given a speech at Miss Wald’s settlement and prepared her speech for Friday. Christabel Pankhurst’s meeting was not a success. Discusses plans for her tour.

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Transcript

Women’s Cosmopolitan Club, 133 East 40th Street
Oct 29 {1}

Dearest. I’ll begin a letter now, as it will have to be posted tomorrow to go by the Saturday Mail. I shall send you a week-end letter by cable after the Meeting: so you will have that news before you get this letter. I have made a very rapid recovery & everybody has been angelic[.] I havent missed anything important[.] I was bundled out of bed into my clothes & into a taxi to attend a Dinner & Reception afterwards at Miss Wald’s Settlement on Tuesday night—put on a bed in a dark room between the events—made my speech with which everybody expressed themselves delighted & bundled back into a taxi before the people left their chairs. Yesterday Mrs Blatch’s Dinner in my honour was postponed till next week—& I had a quiet day in my room to save my throat for Friday. My temp: was still nearly 100 yesterday. This morning I felt much better & got up & went downstairs to breakfast. For I must harden up a bit for Friday. My temperature is now normal & I feel I need fresh air & exercise. I have been so frightfully much drugged with aspirin & pyramidon to bring down temperature, that I feel dazed & numbed—& I must get back to more normal conditions[.] I have written out my speech & a typist is making 20 copies of it—& I shall send you one. If you like to abridge it or publish it as it stands, you can (but I dont see any occasion)[.] “Votes” is too small now for the reproduction of speeches—& for a pamphlet we have no audience unless one develops in the meanwhile. The Harbens might like to see it—and some of my friends including Mary Neal & Doctor Chapman & Elizabeth Robins. I have not at present had any new light upon the war from the American Papers. All the opinion I have read, or encountered is on the side of the Allies. If there is any German sympathy it is lying low[.] Nothing illuminating! But remember all I have seen of New York is three days inside my bedroom.

The weather has been perfectly lovely the whole time—clear & blue with brightest sunshine.

My friends here are very warmly reminiscent of you. Miss Wald (the Jane Addams of New York) in introducing me on Tuesday night spoke your name saying you were honoured & admired over here with deepest recognition of the stand you have taken & the work you have done.

I hear on all sides of disappointment in C.P.’s meeting on Saturday. Alice Wright didnt go—the Lewisohns came out in the middle. Mrs Blatch says the tickets were pressed upon people, she was given a box & entreated to come—& all her friends who were there tell her the same story. The Hall was only half full. The only thing that saved C.P. from acknowledged failure ws the mercy of the reporters whom she captivated. They all described her as a lovely young girl of twenty three!—a marvel for her age!

Have just been out for a short walk up along 5th Avenue to Broadway & back. The Club gives on Lexington Avenue on one side, the entrance being in East 40th St. Its the nicest place, (barring Clements Inn & The Mascot) in which I have ever stayed. Both S. & I have a bathroom & dressing room as well as a bed-sitting room to ourselves—& the appointments, & facilities are absolutely perfect.

I am booked up with a delightful programme ahead—though a very easy one. But I will tell you of these events as they come off. I am not able to tell you of any fixtures outside New York yet—there have been many “nibbles”—but I think things are hanging fire until after Friday. Everybody of course wants to get me for nothing & our previous correspondence in connection with our tour is rather embarrassing. People write & say “you said you would be willing to help a Suffrage Society”[.] November is a frightfully awkward month as I told you—& C.P. & A.K are a complication because they are ready to go anywhere for their expenses & hospitality. Feakins still thinks if I could give him time, he could get me a fine tour—but he is being cut into every way by the present concatenation of circumstances—& I have not promised him December. I do want to know if you would be very grieved if I did send you a cable later, to say I should like to stay on over Christmas. I may never feel the least inclined to do it but you cant say anything in a cable when you do send it—that is why I want to know before the possibility crops up, what your feelings on the matter are. Its much too early to form any judgment yet—but if my speech does catch on—& I think you will consider it a speech that might catch on—opportunity might occur to go further & further West—possibly to the Coast even. Friends & hospitality I should find everywhere[.] People are overwhelmingly hospitable & warm. Dont say anything about this to anybody else please[,] as the suggestion might not crop up at all.

If you want to know what I feel—well—frankly I should like it immensely. I find that you need not work any harder than you choose[—]you have only to say what you want & what you dont want. Its “play” to me after the W.S.P.U & compared to Emergency Corps. And I want to know much more of the people who interest me enormously.

There is nothing to bring me back to England except you. So if you will either join me or be happy & content without me, I shall feel free if it ever comes to a choice!

Susan had her letters brought on in the Franconia by arranging with the Purser, she hasnt got them yet, & I dont think the boat has arrived. I have not yet received any English mail. Love to all friends. A hug for my old Sweetheart. Ever your own

Patz

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{1} This day was a Thursday.

Biographical note on Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Transcript

Biography of Mrs. Pethick Lawrence

Mrs. Pethick-Lawrence is known in many countries as a Feminist who played a leading part in the world-wide Suffrage Campaign before the War.

She often says she was born to take part in the great Movement of Thought, which in her life time has entirely transformed the Status of women in every sphere of life. At any rate she remembers that as a very young child, slighting references to women made carelessly, aroused in her a burning protest, and a desire to become their champion. This desire found outlet first in Social Service, including the founding (with Miss Mary Neal) of Maison Espérance—a Business for working girls with the 8 hours day—a minimum wage, and the many activities associated with it.

In the ear 1905 came the clarion call of the Militanti† Suffrage Movement. In 1906 Mrs. Pethick-Lawrence became Treasurer for the Campaign and during the next 6 years there was raised in one organisation, a fund of a Quarter of Millions {1} sterling.

Together with her husband she started the first Militant Suffrage Paper Votes for Women, which they carried on as co-Editors.

In 1908 she was arrested for attempting to speak in the Lobby of the House of Commons, after the refusal of the Government to receive a Deputation of Women (that had come to put their case) had been announced to them by the Police. Subsequently she was arrested twice for leading a Deputation to Parliament, and once under the old Conspiracy laws. In the latter case she was sentenced to 9 months and placed in the 1st division. The majority of her fellow suffragists in prison were not accorded the same treatment as political prisoners. They protested by the Hunger Strike, and she made common cause with them, was forcibly fed and subsequently released, having served five weeks of the 9 months sentence.

In the Autumn of 1914 a cable summoned her to New York to address a vast Suffrage Meeting in the Carnegie Hall. On that occasion she helped to inaugurate the campaign which two years later led to the political enfranchisement of the women of the State. Further she called up {2} the Women of America (this the greatest of the neutral Powers) not to become obsessed by the War spirit but to combine their allegiance to the principle of arbitration and to work for a real settlement rather than a fight to the finish. She travelled from the East to the West of America, speaking everywhere of the Solidarity of women as the Mothers of the human race and therefore the {3} natural Peacemakers. As a result of her campaign the Women[’]s Peace Party (afterwards the American Section of the Women’s International League) was formed {4} with Jane Addams as its president, and the two women sailed with fifty American delegates to take part in an International Conference of Women held at the Hague in April 1915. It will be remembered that this Congress representing 16 nations was unanimous in urging a Peace by Negotiation, and that a delegation appointed at the Hague was received by several Chancellors in Europe, by the President of the Swiss Republic and by the United States; it was also received by the Pope. On behalf of the women of the world this delegation pleaded for a continuous Council of Mediation and Reconciliation to be formed by the Neutral States, in order to conduct negotiations between the warring Powers, and if possible secure an understanding and a[n] agreement which would avoid a fight to the finish and its consequent devastation of the whole of Europe.

Mrs. Pethick-Lawrence has continued up to the present moment to work towards the Removal of all legal Restrictions upon the equality and freedom of the sexes, also towards and for the practical realization of the solidarity of the Human race (rooted in the Solidarity of women of all races as political {5} Mothers) which demands the abolition of Poverty and War.

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Carbon copy of a typed original, corrected by hand. ‘? About 1920’ has been added by hand at the top of the first sheet. A few mistypings which are not easy to represent in print or describe briefly have been corrected, as noted below.

{1} ‘of Millions’ mistyped.

{2} Perhaps a slip for ‘upon’.

{3} Mistyped.

{4} Altered from, or to, ‘founded’.

{5} Altered from ‘potential’.

† Sic.

Copy of a letter from Lord Pethick-Lawrence to G. M. Trevelyan

Explains his view of the historical importance of the women’s suffrage movement (in response to views expressed by Trevelyan).

(Carbon-copy, with handwritten alterations.)

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Transcript

3rd. October, 1949.

My dear Master,

You may remember that when I had the honour of dining in Trinity last June {1} I mentioned to you that I should like some day to have a talk with you about the woman’s militant movement for the franchise at the beginning of the century. Thinking it over I have come to the conclusion that it will probably suit you better if I put what I have to say in writing.

I must begin by apologising for troubling you at all about the matter but as you know I have been for a great part of my life a propagandist and I am still incorrigible in my old age. I do not like to think that you, our foremost British historian, should have, as it seems to me, the wrong slant on this movement which I hold to have been of considerable historic importance. The fact that I played a prominent part in it myself entitles me to speak on its behalf though I am free to admit that it also entitles you to charge me with bias. But then you have said (and I agree) that even an historian is none the worse for bias.

My case is:— 1) that any section of the community that has no political rights should endeavour to win them by reason and argument, but that if prolonged peaceful agitation fails to influence those who have the power, then it has no alternative but to use extraordinary and extralegal methods unless it is prepared to acquiesce in its own subjection.

2) that such methods should be designed so as a) to rouse the largest number of the unenfranchised section to a consciousness of their subjection b) to create the greatest difficulties for the Government, and c) to win the support of the bulk of the population by casting odium on the Government for its repressive counter measures.

3) that the militant suffrage agitation acted broadly on these lines (though it naturally made some mistakes), and that it was instrumental—though not exclusively—in creating a situation from which there was no escape except by conferring a measure of enfranchisement on women.

I do not think you will substantially disagree with me on either of the first two points which are borne out by countless examples, the latest of which come from Asia—India and Indonesia, in the former of which I was acting for the Government—but I gather that you do not accept my version of the facts as to the third.

It is to this point therefore that I will specially devote myself.

I was brought up, like you, in the Liberal fold and I still think that we owe much of our national democratic heritage to the great Liberal statesmen of the 19th century. Nevertheless I think that the Liberal Party bungled the case of the women and of the working man and lost its prestige and pre-eminence by so doing. By the time that the militant suffrage movement began women had grown tired of asking politely for the vote and being fobbed off it by discreditable political devices; and some younger spirits had become rebellious.

The militants directed the spear-head of their attack upon the members of the Liberal Government because they were the most vulnerable in that it was contrary to Liberal principles to deny enfranchisement to a section of the community which paid taxes and was subject to the laws made by a parliament in which they were not represented. In the earlier stages of the agitation they abstained from violence and concentrated on questioning Cabinet Ministers, campaigning against Liberal candidates at by-elections and committing technical breaches of the law. As a consequence they were subjected to considerable violence at the hands of stewards at meetings and of the police in the streets and they suffered terms of imprisonment.

I think it is indisputable that in this way they succeeded in rousing the sympathy of a very large number of their own sex. Many thousands enrolled themselves in the militant organisations. They included such prominent women as Dr. Garrett Anderson the Mayor of Aldeburgh, Mrs. Saul Solomon widow of the Cape Premier, Lady Constance Lytton, and leading actresses, novelists and others. Funds were contributed running into hundreds of thousands of pounds. The paper Votes for Women the weekly organ of the movement had a circulation of 30,000 to 40,000. About a thousand women served terms of imprisonment. Moreover after militancy began (and in my opinion, and in the publicly expressed opinion of Mrs. Fawcett the leader of the “constitutional” suffragists, largely in consequence of it) the membership of the non-militant suffrage societies showed a marked and rapid increase.

They succeeded also in directing the attention of the general public to the question. At one time from 100 to 200 meetings were being held every week, some of them vast open-air demonstrations, others in the largest halls of the country which were packed to overflowing. I do not suggest that all the members of the audiences were supporters though many were, but there was little or no hostility; and in the street demonstrations the crowds were mostly sympathetic. In fact in the so-called “raids on Parliament” the women counted on the crowd to protect them from the police.

How far electors were influenced at by-elections to vote against Liberal candidates by suffragette orators and canvassers can never be proved one way or the other but the press frequently alleged that they were, and there is no doubt that Cabinet Ministers were greatly embarrassed and hard put to to defend their attitude. Naturally, as is always the case when coercive action is taken by a Government, the British public opinion reacted against the Government.

During this period of the agitation there was a growing feeling among all parties in the House of Commons that the question of woman suffrage ought to be treated seriously and sympathetically and in 1910 an all-party committee devised a compromise proposal which came to be known as the “Conciliation Bill”. In order not to prejudice the chances of this compromise the militant societies were asked to desist from any militant action. They agreed; and for several months they carried out strictly constitutional and non-provocative activities. But in the end the Liberal Government made it quite clear that they would have nothing to do with the Conciliation Bill and Mr. Asquith remained adamant in his opposition. Militancy was therefore resumed in all its forms. Women continued to go to prison in increasing numbers and suffered violence in the streets and at Liberal meetings for their insubordination.

It was then that some militant women decided upon a change of tactics in the direction of actual violence against property. They were influenced to take this course 1) by the preference for being arrested quickly rather than after being knocked about and 2) by the taunts levelled against them by Cabinet Ministers that their rebellion was trumpery and not of the same account as the riots indulged in by men agitators in the 19th century. The form of violence adopted was that of breaking windows. At first the leaders of the militant movement opposed and tried to restrain women from taking this course but later they recognised it and organised it. A great shop-window breaking raid took place in London and created a sensation. The Government took action by arresting the leaders of the militant movement on a charge of conspiracy. I was one of those leaders and I made a speech in the dock at the Old Bailey in my own defence. I enclose with this letter, a verbatim report of it which you may feel disposed to read (not the biographical note which precedes it which has no relevance to the present issue.) It gives a number of further facts which I have not repeated in this letter. The trial, which was given immense prominence in the press, ended in our conviction, the jury appending a sympathetic rider, and we were sentenced to nine months imprisonment. At the same time several hundreds of the rank and file of the movement were also imprisoned. After serving part of our sentence the prisoners adopted the hunger strike. Some of us were forcibly fed and then released.

Subsequently there was a division in the leadership. Mrs. Pankhurst decided on new and more violent tactics which did not appeal to my wife and myself and we parted company. The Government also adopted new tactics and instead of applying forcible feeding the hunger strikers, took powers in a special Act of Parliament—The Cat & Mouse Bill—to release them and to rearrest them when they had recovered their health. The agitation continued with increasing bitterness on both sides up to the outbreak of the first world war.

Meanwhile of the purely political side there had been many developments. Supporters of woman suffrage did not succeed in inducing Mr. Asquith to support a woman suffrage measure. Instead, he promised that the franchise Bill which would be introduced to extend the male franchise would be open to amendment to include women. In the event the Speaker ruled that the Bill could not be so amended. This created an impasse in which it became evident that though the supporters of woman suffrage were not strong enough to insist on the passage of a Bill to enfranchise women they were strong enough to prevent the passage of a Bill to enfranchise more men from which women were excluded.

The external war brought a truce to the domestic militant campaign and during the war women rendered great services to the nation. When in the middle of the war a new registration and franchise reform measure became necessary a Speaker’s conference was constituted to frame the basis of its provisions and a partial enfranchisement of women was included among them and was accepted as a reasonable compromise and as such was enacted.

I am in no doubt that the women’s war service reconciled a large number of doubters to the inclusion of women in the future lists of electors. But I equally have no doubt that the prominence given to the question by the pre-war agitation made it impossible to ignore their claims and that, without it, gratitude to women for their help in critical hours might easily have fizzled out without the accordance of any tangible recognition of their right to participate in the future governance of their common country.

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{1} 21st. See PETH 6/279.

The Women’s Bulletin, including a memoir of Evelyn Sharp by Lord Pethick-Lawrence

(Mechanical copy of a typed original.)

Extract

EVELYN SHARP
by The Rt. Hon. Lord Pethick-Lawrence of Peaslake

Evelyn Sharp was a valiant suffragette, and a most lovable friend. She had great talents and devoted all of them to the woman’s movement willingly and without stint.

She was one of a distinguished family. Her brother, Cecil, will live in history as the compiler of old English songs and folk dances which he collected from remote parts of England and America. Another brother was head of the London Fire Brigade and originated the particular bell which the fire engines ring to clear the streets. She herself before the outbreak of the militant movement was a journalist and an author of children’s stories. She had an instinctive insight into a child’s mind and her books attained great popularity among the young.

Much of this work she had to abandon as she threw herself more and more into the activities of the votes-for-women cause. She spoke at meetings, she wrote articles for the press, she took part in illegal militancy, suffered imprisonment, and underwent the hunger strike. She never lost her sense of humour, she never became bitter, she never forsook her innate humility.

I well remember the occasion when in 1912 I called on her to make what I suppose was the greatest sacrifice of all for the cause—the abandonment of all her outside work in order to devote her whole time to editing the weekly organ—Votes for Women. I had long foreseen that one day I myself as editor of the paper might be arrested and I had turned over in my mind to whom I could entrust the position during my imprisonment. I could think of no one who could fill it half so well as Evelyn. But I realised that if I approached her before my arrest she was likely to offer all sorts of objections and I decided to wait until the event occurred when I felt sure her loyalty and devotion would sweep all hesitation aside.

But I had not counted upon my arrest being made late in the evening with the instruction my wife and me to prepare ourselves for immediate departure to the police station. The paper was only 24 hours away from going to the press. How was I going to communicate with Evelyn in time? At that moment our front door bell rang. A visitor was announced—Miss Evelyn Sharp! For no particular reason she had selected that evening for coming to see my wife and myself! We were allowed a few minutes’ conversation with her. I put my request. She accepted the onerous responsibility without demur.

Through the troublous months and years that followed until the vote was won she remained at her post either alone or in association with myself and my wife; and in her expert and courageous hands the continuity of the paper and its policy was maintained with dignity and determination.

The friendship between us was sealed by this sacrifice and we were fortunate in finding ourselves in agreement regarding many of the world issues which arose after the women’s victory was won. I was particularly pleased that she was able to make a second literary reputation. Her articles in the press had a pungency all her own without a trace of malice. Among her noteworthy books were a biography of Hertha Ayrton, “The London Child”, “The Child Grown Up” and an autobiography—“Unfinished Adventure”. She also wrote the libretto for Vaughan Williams’ musical comedy “The Poisoned Kiss”. It was an added happiness to my wife and myself when in 1933 she married our old friend Henry Nevinson.

As she passed into the eighties she came to need the care and attention which only a nursing home can provide and I frequently gave myself the pleasure of visiting her there. On these occasions, up till a little while before she died her face would light up with interest as we shared some reminiscence of the suffrage days.

Pethick Lawrence.