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

(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.

Letter from Jessie Kenney to Lady Constance Lytton

Transcript

Hotel du Golfe | La Guimorais | St Coulomb | Ille-et-Villaine | France.
Sept 13. 1921.

Dearest Lady Conny,

I am writing to ask if you will very kindly do something for me.

I am to be admitted to the Wireless College at Colwyn Bay where I am going to train as a Wireless Operator and at the same time to study for my London Matric. I have already applied to the Principal and he has accepted me.

But each student is required to supply the following:—

(a) Certificate of birth

(b) Particulars filled up on enclosed form

(c) Letters from two persons of British parentage, and of standing, signifying that the applicant is the person described on the birth certificate—that the particulars on attached form are correct—and that the applicant and his† parents are of good character.

I am enclosing my birth certificate and the form referred to above which I have filled up—so that you can see all is in order. Both my father and mother are dead as I think you know.

There are two people I should like to have as sponsors for my entry into the wireless world. One is yourself and the other is Professor Bickerton (President of the Royal Astronomical Society) who was a good old supporter of ours in our good old fighting days and he has been more than encouraging to me in my new quest.

I should be therefore so glad, dear Lady Conny, if you would send me a letter which I can forward on to the Principal with the enclosed form and birth certificate.

I have decided after all not to go to Australia as things seem very unsettled out there. Also I find that before I can do anything in wireless it will be necessary for me to take a degree and I am working to this object. And if one is to take a degree in Science it is better to take it in this country of course. Colwyn Bay has an excellent and mild climate, and so one can work and study there without detriment to one’s health. My two good and generous sisters in New York are helping me financially for my first year’s training.

Women are not being trained as Wireless Operators and special facilities are being given to me because of my enthusiasm in the matter and my keenness to go ahead in the cause of scientific work. The Prime Minister has sent me a little note wishing me success, and if it had not been for this I doubt if I should have been accepted. So you can gather from this that I am helping to blaze another trail for women and I hope to prove worthy of all the confidence and faith that has been put in me. One thing I feel so strongly about in this affair is that one is never too old to start anything. It seems to have astonished quite a few people that I should wish to go in for scientific work at the age of 34 and begin studying for a degree in science now. But I feel just as I did when I began work in the Suffrage Movement, and one is as young as one feels—isn’t one?

I wonder how you are keeping. I saw the notice in the Press and the leading article about your dear mother’s birthday {1}. How devoted you must all be to her and how proud she must be of all of you. I do wish you could have met my mother. You would have loved her. She was a wonderful and good woman. Whenever any of us are in doubt or trouble we always feel her presence and influence near. In life she always specially watched over the weak one and the one needing help and she seems to do this still.

You will be pleased to hear that Annie’s little baby boy {2} is perfectly lovely and is so happy and good.

I am enclosing a stamped addressed envelope. I am staying at the above address for a little holiday—It is a little hotel in an out of way spot in Brittany, and one that has been visited by many Suffragettes.

With love & all good wishes

Ever yours,
Jessie Kenney.

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{1} Edith, Countess of Lytton, celebrated her eightieth birthday this year.

{2} Annie Kenney’s son Warwick.

† Sic. 

Biographical note on Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, by F. W. Pethick-Lawrence, for a broadcast in Australia

(Carbon copy, with handwritten corrections.)

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Transcript

Mrs. Pethick-Lawrence is well known all the world over as an ardent champion of liberty and as an opponent of war and all other antagonisms of race, class, or sex which threaten the freedom of the human spirit.

One of her earliest recollections is of the great fight which her father put up in Weston-super-Mare for the right of free speech over a Salvation Army case; and his ultimate victory [in the Beatty v Gilbanks judgment] {1} establishing an important tradition of liberty made her very proud to be his daughter.

When she was only eight years old she fought her own first battle for democracy. At her school a barbarous and antiquated rule forbade the pupils to speak to the domestic servants in the house. Emmeline Pethick broke this rule and was “sent to Coventry” for a whole week as a punishment. On another occasion, when one of the head mistresses was relating to the girls with great approval an assault made with rotten eggs upon the late Henry Bradlaugh, she horrified the school by protesting in the presence of the lady and before them all that Bradlaugh’s atheism was preferable to the kind of Christianity that resorted to such cowardly persecution.

In her teens her spirit was fired to a sense of injustice by the reading of many books such as “Adam Bede”, Goethe’s “Faust[”], and “The Story of a South African Farm”.—Later in life Olive Schreiner the author of the latter was to become one of her intimate friends.

Determined to do her part she enlisted as a “Sister” in Mrs. Prior Hughes’ West London Mission. In these {2} days the working girls of London had no holiday at all during the year except Sundays and bank holidays. “Sister Emmeline” personally visited a number of employers and persuaded them not to sack their girls if they absented themselves for a week in the summer. Of course they got no wages but Sister Emmeline herself took them away into the country.

Later she and another sister founded the Espérance Working Girls Club which became famous through introducing the old Morris Dances into every county of England.

It was during a performance by the Esperance Club that she first met her future husband, and their common Cornish heritage at once drew them together. The guests at the wedding included the old women of St. Pancras Workhouse, the members of the Canning Town Men’s Club, and Mr. Lloyd George then known mainly as an opponent of the Boer War. After marriage they decided to unite their two surnames of Pethick and Lawrence and for a time their interests were absorbed in the London Evening paper of which Mr. Lawrence was the editor.

But it was not long before the militant suffrage movement with its insistent challenge to Authority was to claim all their attention. The name of Mrs. Pethick-Lawrence coupled with those of Mrs. Pankhurst and “Christabel” was on everybody’s lips. Six times she faced arrest and imprisonment, once going through the hunger strike and being forcibly fed. As Treasurer of the W.S.P.U. (Women’s Social and Political Union) her speeches at the Royal Albert Hall, London, were famous and her success was demonstrated by the gathering of no less than a quarter of a million pounds for the movement.

She and her husband edited the weekly newspaper “Votes for Women” which rapidly attained a large circulation. It chronicled at one time two hundred meetings a week on behalf of the organisation & reported that at a demonstration in Hyde Park the audience had been estimated by the Times newspaper in the neighbourhood of half a million.

On one occasion when Mrs. Pethick-Lawrence was announced to take the chair at a meeting from which it was intended that women should start a march to the House of Commons, a body of students broke into the hall for the express purpose of preventing the meeting. Mrs. Lawrence came in and mounted the platform and addressed the students. She told them that as men who had already secure[d] the rights that women were struggling for she was confident that their sense of fair play would not allow them to stand between women and their freedom, and she called upon them one by one to withdraw. So great was the power of her personality that they went out row by row and the meeting took place as originally arranged.

On another occasion addressing the jury in a law court she explained and defended the militant methods of the suffragettes in the following words:—“This great movement is, as you heard counsel for the plaintiff say, gathering momentum every day like a great flood. Now, when a tide is dammed back it overflows, and inevitable destruction is wrought. But men do not argue with a flood; they do not put the responsibility on the flood; they put the responsibility upon, and they argue with, those who have dammed back the stream and prevented it from flowing in its ordinary channel.”

“The Story of the progress of the human race is the story of the birth of great moral ideas, new ideas that have pushed their way into the common life, either by the process of evolution or by the process of revolution. Evolution is the natural and the right process, but there have been occasions in history, as you know very well, where the process of evolution has been obstructed by those who held the sceptre or rule. That is the position at the present moment.” Mr. Justice Darling who tried the case said at the opening of his summing up that hers was the “most eloquent speech he had ever heard in that Court”.

During the years of the great war Mrs. Pethick-Lawrence used all her powers as a speaker and writer to urge upon her countryment the need for securing a Peace by negotiation and reconciliation rather than one dictated by victories on the field of battle.

Summoned to the U.S.A. in the Autumn of 1914 to address a vast suffrage meeting in the Carnegie Hall (inaugurating the campaign which two years later led to the adoption of the women’s vote throughout the whole of the United States), she made a tour of that country speaking both on questions of peace and of women’s disabilities. Largely as a result of her campaign the American section of the Women’s International League was formed with Jane Addams as its President; and the two women sailed with fifty American delegates to take part in the International Conference of Women held at the Hague in April, 1915.

Mrs. Pethick-Lawrence strongly disapproved and protested against the terms of the Versailles treaty which she clearly foresaw contained the germs of future trouble in Europe. After the war was over she travelled over the Continent and was the first English person to address meetings in the principal cities of Austria. She also spoke in the Reichstag in an international conference.

Many parts of the British Empire have secured visits from her. In Canada, India, and South Africa she has held many public meetings. On more than one occasion she has hoped to come to Australia to return the visit of Miss Vida Goldstein, but so far circumstances have always intervened to prevent her.

During recent years she has continued to urge the claims of peace and disarmament and to champion the right of the married women to the choice of her own nationality and the character of her employment. In all her activities Mrs. Pethick-Lawrence has had the active support of her husband who was Financial Secretary to the Treasury in the late Government in England.

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At the top of the first sheet is written the file number ‘2069’ and the following note: ‘Compiled by F.W.P.L August 1934 & sent to Mrs Littlejohn in Australia for a Broadcast in Sydney.’

{1} The square brackets were added in pencil.

{2} i.e. ‘those’.

Letter from —— to Lord Pethick-Lawrence

The British Broadcasting Corporation, Broadcasting House, London, W.1.—Invites him to prepare and deliver, on stated terms, a radio talk on ‘Lloyd George and other Prime Ministers’ for the General Overseas Service.

(A printed form, with details typed in. Signed p.p. the Talks Booking Manager (the name is indistinct, but is probably Ronald Boswell).)

Letter from —— to Lord Pethick-Lawrence

The British Broadcasting Corporation, Broadcasting House, London, W.1.—Invites him (retrospectively) to prepare and deliver, on stated terms, a revised insert for the programme on Lloyd George in the series ‘British Prime Ministers since 1900’ (cf. 5/123a).

(A printed form, with details typed in. Signed p.p. the Talks Booking Manager (the name is indistinct, but is probably Ronald Boswell). The recording referred to was made on 11 Feb.)