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Lytton, Lady Constance Georgina Bulwer- (1869–1923), suffragette Imagen Con objetos digitales
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Letter from Hugh Cecil to Lady Constance Lytton

23 Bruton Street, W.—In Mrs Pethick-Lawrence’s case the proper course would probably be to move the King’s Bench on the ground of informality in the proceedings rather than to ask a question in Parliament.

Extracts from a letter from L. V. (?) Barrett to Lady Betty Balfour

6 De Vesci Terrace, Kingstown, Co. Dublin.—Explains why she urged Lady Constance Lytton to oppose militant action by suffragettes.

(Marked ‘Copy’ and ‘Extracts’. Annotated by the recipient. The initials of the signature are transcribed as ‘L. V.’, but query whether the writer was Rosa Mary Barrett.)

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Transcript

COPY
Extracts.

6, De Vesci Terrace | Kingstown Co. Dublin. Jan 13. 1912

(From a Snobby suffragist: the pencil comments are Betty’s)

Dear Lady Betty Balfour,

I had today a long letter from your sister Lady Constance, it was most kind of her to write & I fear I hurt her feelings by asking her to use her influence at this critical moment in the cause of the suffrage, by discountenancing such scenes as at the City Temple or raids on shops in the Strand etc. I know what damage to the cause has been done by these things, & as one who has worked & fought for women’s suffrage for 30 years {1} I feel the greatest discretion & wise counsel is now necessary. I have such an intense admiration for yr sister & her heroism {2} that it pains me to differ from her. Of course I may be wrong but men do feel very differently to women on this action of the Women’s Social & Pol. Union

Yrs v. sincerely
L. V. Barrett {3}

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{1} Interlined in pencil: ‘greatest justification of militancy I have said’.

{2} Interlined in pencil: ‘I sd Why for her & not all the militants’.

{3} The closing salutation and name are at the head of the sheet.

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 Christabel Pankhurst to Lady Constance Lytton

11 Avenue de la Grande Armée, Paris.—The WSPU will review and sell Lady Constance’s book (Prison and Prisoners). Emphasises the need for the WSPU to remain independent and points out the tendency of other organisations to draw on the energies of its supporters.

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Transcript

11 av de la Grande Armée | Paris.
2nd Feby 1914

My dearest Con,

Many thanks for your letter.

We will indeed have a notice of the book {1}—That is all arranged! Also of course we shall sell sell it at L.I.H. {2} & in the various WSPU shops here and there.

How glad you will be when the book is really out!

I wonder if you noticed in the Suffragette an article on Inner Policy. That gives you the key to much tht you may have heard and seen.

The Union has passed through difficult seas during the past two years and more and more difficult will our course become.

Your pilot may puzzle you often, but there is a chart believe me and we work & steer by that.

In one’s personal life there is I am sure you have felt an essential something to be guarded against the World’s assaults and endeavours to make one other than oneself. So it is with a Union. The WSPU if it is to complete the work it has begun must conserve its character & independence & peculiar virtue. Politically it must remain uninfluenced in the slightest degree by the Govt & the Liberal Party. The people who have guided it must guide it to the end using their best & therefore free judgment—so many people are ready to advise & “control” even at a certain point!!

These principles dictate our actions always.

Another point—there is too great a tendency upon the part of other organisations new & old to draw upon the energies of W.S.P.U. supporters. Concentration is the watchword for us! There are other women in plenty for the other organisations. The W.S.P.U. people shd not divide their energies.

All these sayings lead me to this point tht it is better for Mrs M’Leod who is a pillar of the V for W Fellowship to serve tht individedly.

I feel this particularly strongly in this case, because she was one who at the time of the separation had not faith and was really difficult. She will be I am sure more contented in the long run if she concentrates on her own society.

This letter is for your eye alone.

They will be seeing Mrs M’Leod & arranging matters.

How I should like a talk with you! In the meantime I may assure you that the inner policy as it is called has behind it all the conviction & prompting tht were & now are behind the militant policy itself!

We have come to a point at which a Union otherwise conducted wd succumb to the influence & indirect attack of the enemy. It is the hardest time for us who bear the responsibility for sometimes we have to seem unkind to former friends. That is worse than having to fight the Govt! With love

Yrs ever
Christabel Pankhurst

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The word ‘that’ is abbreviated four times as ‘tht’. Full stops have been supplied at the end of two sentences.

{1} Lady Constance Lytton’s Prison and Prisoners.

{2} Lincoln’s Inn House, the headquarters of the Women’s Social and Political Union.

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

Holloway Prison.—Discusses business relating to properties and investments, and refers to a forthcoming Exhibition.

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Transcript

Holloway Prison
March 4th 1909 {1}

My dear Husband.

I knew that there would be many matters of private business you would want to discuss with me & that if possible you would obtain a permit for an interview so that we could discuss them verbally which is of course the only satisfactory way. Since however that is not possible, I am glad to be able to tell you what I wish about the one or two matters which you mention. As regards “The Bungalow” property. The tenant you tell me leaves when the lease runs out. That is this month I believe. You say he has friends who will take it on at a lower rental. But I am not inclined to lower the rent, at any rate for the present. This is a good time of the year for letting such a property. And I do not think there will be any difficulty in finding tenants. I do not wish to sell in any case. You know I have always considered that we do well to hold that land. Being so near to London, it is bound to go up in value.

“The Mascot.” If you are renovating or decorating, the colour which I should wish to predominate is the blue that is the real dutch blue. You have a sample of it in the almanak† that hangs over my little desk in the Mascot dining room. I know you will superintend what is necessary in the garden. Rapley knows a great deal about the work & my wishes with regard it. I know how perfect & how beautiful everything will be. My special joy is in those May tulips. Some beautiful flowers were brought into the ward this morning—daffodils & some double golden tulips. Though no one told me where they came from, my heart told me. Flowers are a great joy to those who are here. So is music. Every afternoon when I am out at exercise I hear music. A Band in the street plays well known airs.

With regard to “The Sundial”. This house is let until the end of May. Will you write to the George Foxes & ask if they want it for June, or if not whether I shall reserve any other time of the year for them. From middle of July to end of August, it is let to the Esperance Club. I have not seen the books which you have presented to the Library. But no doubt I shall do so in good time. I have Shakespeare & other literature. I have not been at all dull. The week has gone quickly. I sleep like a baby—& feel that I haven’t a care or worry in the world. No news comes from the outside world. But I know perfectly well that everything is happening as I should wish. I have absolute confidence that all is well. No newspapers, not even our own could tell me more surely. You say hard work suits you. Well, a quiet life with domestic occupations seems to suit me, for I too feel very well & mean to come back thoroughly rested & fit for work. I hope you will fill up my dates for beginning of May. I shall not entangle myself with the machinery until after the Exhibition. Lady Connie will go to Annie in Bristol before Easter but do not make any other engagement out of London for her. Lady Connie should open the Exhibition on one of the three days. If this commends itself to you you can proceed to arrange it without delay. I am sure it would be the right & appropriate thing.

Dont you think it strange that out of over fifty people charged with the same offence, I am the only one to get sentence of two months. Two or three have been arrested twice before for the same offence. & Mrs Despard the leader of another deputation was sentenced to a month only. Why this divergence? I should like it explained.

I have had a letter from Mort about the business of the investments in trust for me under my Father’s will & estate. He says that he is inclined to sell the Columbian National Railways. There has been a considerable rise lately, he says, but he is not impressed with the stability of the investment. I told him I should like to see him & my brother Tom about this & various other matters, but if that would cause delay in this particular case, he can refer to you & if you think well he can sell. He also mentioned important developments in the Gazette. Have I not a legal right to see our family solicitor & trustee to transact private family business? This right should be claimed if it is a right.

Our financial report & balance sheet should receive my signature. Will you ask if the M.S. or proof can be sent to me to sign. If this is not granted, the explanation should be given in the Report, of the reason it goes out to the world without the signature of the Treasurer.

Now Goodbye. And “God bless us all—every one”[.] There is every reason why joy & love & infinite thanks should fill all our hearts. To me, this is a time of expectancy, of happy waiting for the spring. The bursting of new life & beauty—the eternal miracle & revelation. Just as the earth keeps already the joy of a great secret, so I keep already the promise of the future & hold its festival in my heart. My thoughts go to you all, & yours,—the thoughts of you all—come to me full of blessing. Special love to my Mother & to Aunt Ellen, who—

Your
Emmeline Pethick Lawrence

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The letter is written on a printed form. Other handwritten details on the sheet include the number (2141) and name of the prisoner, and some pencil notes in Fred Pethick-Lawrence’s hand.

{1} ‘Prison’ and ‘190’ are printed.

† Sic.

Letter from Christabel Pankhurst to Lady Constance Lytton

Transcript

11, Avenue de la Grande Armee, | Paris.
1st May. 1914.

Dearest Con

I am so very glad to have your letter this morning.

You will see that in the Suffragette I have written something about Lord Selborne’s Bill. All the reasons which we have urged against the introduction of the Bill I need not repeat here. It has been introduced and the debate is to take place next Tuesday and there it is.

The important thing now seems to be to take the opportunity afforded by this debate to remind the Government and all anti-Suffragists in every Party that women’s enfranchisement is inevitable. The utmost the anti-Suffragists can do is to delay it; prevent it they cannot. The question for them to consider is whether they gain anything by delay. In my opinion, they lose, and not only do avowed anti-Suffragists lose, but men as a whole lose very seriously by the maintenance of the Suffrage agitation.

The change in women’s attitude towards men that has taken place in the last twelve months is amazing. It means in itself a revolution. The women whom the politicians know are perhaps the same as ever, or pretend to be so, where their opinion of men is concerned. But these women are, in a sense, a class apart. They do not represent the main body of their sex—the great mass of women of all classes who are far removed from the not very elevating influences of the political game as it is played by men politicians at the present time.

Men used to have a great prestige with women. That prestige is disappearing now. More and more, women are regarding men not as equals, but as inferiors. In the past women were very much in ignorance concerning men’s moral standards and the suffering caused to themselves as the result of those moral standards being so deplorably low. I will not say that the denial of the vote is producing a sex war because there always has been a sex war. But what is happening is this, that whereas the sex war was waged on one side only, ie. by men, women are now learning to defend themselves. In their humility, Suffragists themselves used to realise that women had been weakened by the result of subjection and needed the training that freedom gives, but now they are also realising that the men have suffered far more as a result of the subjection of women, and have been utterly degraded and demoralised by it. A contempt for men, as men are today, is becoming very, very prevalent amongst women.

Generally speaking, men, if they are not immoral are weak. That this is so is shown by the fact that although there are multitudes of men who believe in women’s enfranchisement, they do nothing effective to win it, and are most timid and half-hearted in their criticism of the hideous exploitation of women by men that is going on every day. It ought to be clearly understood by Suffragist men, as well as by anti-Suffragist men, that opposition to votes for women and faint-hearted support of votes for women are regarded by thinking Suffragists as being rooted in immorality. A man who gets up and opposes the enfranchisement of women is regarded as being an immoral man. No doubt there will be an outcry at this statement, but that is what women think and they are not given now to making any secret of their thoughts. Some of the men may try to cite cases of clean living men who believe that women should not have the vote. They will find it very hard to do so, and if they succeed they will be doing nothing more than producing the exceptions that prove the rule.

The responsiblity of Suffragist men is really as great as that of the anti-Suffragist men. They must consider whether they want the sex war to go on or whether they do not, because if it goes on it will certainly get keener, and will in future involve women who are not involved today. What do the men Suffragists who counsel patience and non-militancy imagine women think when they read the remarks about “blackmail” made by Members of the Government in the House of Lords when the Bishop of London’s Bill for raising the age of consent was being discussed the other day? It is very obvious that this Bill proposing to protect girls until they are eighteen is hated by a great many men, and that the Government mean to do their best to water down if not to defeat the Bill in question.

What every W.S.P.U. member is saying now is “Thank God we did not get the vote when militancy began, because the campaign of the last few years has been such an education to us.” “If men are like this” they say, “then it is dangerous for us not to know it.” We have lived in a fool’s paradise but have escaped from it now. The fight we are making against the apathy of some men and the opposition of others are strengthening us. We are ready to go on with the present fight for an indefinite period of time. We are just getting into our stride. We are just beginning to reach new bodies of women. If we get the vote tomorrow we shall of course rejoice with all our might, but we realise that if we do not get it for a long time, the years that will be spent in fighting will be some of the most fruitful in the history of the woman’s movement. And the wonderful thing is that every year as it goes by is greater in its achievement and more full of educational experience than any year that has gone before. Realising what has been gained by militancy, we are positively sorry for the women in other countries who have got the vote without fighting for it. We want, when the vote comes, to be able to say that we got it ourselves—not that men gave it to us, the reason for that being that men need the lesson that our victory on those terms will give them. Think, too, how much more the women of future generations will appreciate the vote when they realise that it has been fought for and won by women, and not merely handed over as a gift by men.

I am glad to say that it is being more and more realised how scandalous it is for Carson and his friends to be allowed to commit “grave and unprecedented outrages” (to use the words of the Prime Minister) while mother and all the other active militants are persecuted. The argument that the cases are not parallel is not taken seriously by the general public. People realise that Ulster militancy and Suffragist militancy are essentially one and the same thing whatever superficial difference there may be.

I do hope that you will get better and stronger now.

With love
Christabel Pankhurst

Letter from Christabel Pankhurst to Lady Constance Lytton

Transcript

11 avenue de la Grande Armée | Paris.
7th May 1914

My dearest Con,

The really important thing in the Lords Debate is the recognition that the WSPU & Carson & Bonar Law—Militant Ulster in fact—stand in the same boat!

That was the one thing for good that really counted in a practical sense.

On the other hand there is the Liberal cry that one knew would be raised tht “the rejection of Lord Selborne’s Bill by the House of Lords illustrates the profound anti-feminism of the Unionist Party”[.] See leading article from “Daily Chronicle” enclosed.

It seems to me tht the matter having been brought to the present point, it cannot rest there. What next do Suffragists in the House of Lords intend to do! The Archbishop of Canterbury[,] the Bishop of London & Lord Lytton could get us the vote now if they cared to do it. But of course Lord Lytton does not agree with the Bishop of London about Ulster & ourselves.

How can they as suffragists—as men—allow the coercion & persecution of women to go on while concession is being made to Ulster men whose militancy means bloodshed & the death of hundreds if not thousands of human beings.

Have you heard that Mrs Drummond and Mrs Dacre Fox have both been summoned to appear at Bow St on account of “inciting” speeches?

This means illness & suffering—sheer torture for both of them. And there are Carson & Bonar Law & all the rest, free & unharmed!

Mrs Dacre Fox is expected at Bow Street on 14th May—a Thursday. The General threw her summons away & so we don’t know the date named in it.

The Government are trying to silence our powerful speakers. They will probably arrest several organisers—But there are always people ready to step into the breach[;] surely the last two Raids have taught them that.

We laugh at their Raids except for the pain & danger they mean to the ones taken.

Let us hold fast to tht admission tht women’s militancy & Ulster militancy are in their truth & essence one & the same & shd be dealt with in the same way! What are these men going to do!

Thank goodness we can win without them anyhow—by the sheer fact of being able to create an intolerable situation! Women winning their own freedom. Glorious thought!

My very best love to you.
Christabel Pankhurst

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The word ‘that’ is abbreviated a few times as ‘tht’.

Letter from Christabel Pankhurst to Lady Constance Lytton

Transcript

11 av de la Grande Armée | Paris.
14th May 1914

My dearest Con,

Lord Lytton was kind enough to write to me about the debate and his impressions of it. You may be interested to see a copy of my reply.

More & more & more one sees that the way to win is to get the Govt wedged between militancy & the impossibility of punishing militancy—in short—to create the Ulster situation over again.

Now there is no help that is any use from the practical point of view that does not fit into that scheme. It is all very well to rejoice over the sympathy & understandg shown in the Lords, but the House of Commons was sympathising & understand[in]g in the year 1870!

Sympathy & understand[in]g are a snare unless they are pounded into something more definite in the shape of an Act of Parliament.

You know, anti-militancy does affect the reasoning faculty adversely. People who are most rational & logical & enlightened when other political movements are at stake suddenly lose their bearings when the question of how to get votes for women comes uppermost.

You will see how the General {1} & Mrs Dacre Fox have been throwing the search-light upon the contrast between the Govt’s treatment of themselves & Carson & Lansdowne.

The W.S.P.U. leaves them all far behind doesn’t it.

The anti-militant ladies simply don’t come into anybody’s calculations these days. Why can’t they see & become a force by adopting a sane policy?

I am sure that you feel proud and happy when you read of our fighters’ exploits.

You and I, the Exiles, have a very joyful life in that sense have we not!

So very sorry I am dearest Con, to hear you have been ill again. I hope it has passed now.

You wrote of my dog the other day. She is indeed a little beauty, full of intelligence & affection. It is years since I could have a dog and to have this one is a joy.

As for my home here, it is to me just like a room in Lincoln’s Inn House. Outside I feel is not the Avenue de la Grande Armee, but Kingsway[.] In the next rooms are the organisers.

And yet it is Paris too—the beloved Paris that I really will & must come back to from time to time.

Imagine how one loves a place—delightful in any case—which has been one’s haven!

I am immeasurably happy in being here and in the thought of being some day—perhaps soon—back in London.

Back in London will be when the vote is won—not before. That might be so very soon if everybody wd do their best[.]

The barriers are so slight—the opposition so weak.

It is the weakness of pro Suffragists that is the enemy now.

But fighting is victory so it is well whatever happens.

When I go home one of the very early things I shall do is go & see you!

My love to you
Christabel Pankhurst

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{1} Flora Drummond.

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.

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. 

Statement by Lady Constance Lytton, following her arrest for breaking windows

Pleads not guilty, and explains her reasons for having broken windows.

—————

Transcript

(I plead not guilty). I broke the glass of windows as the witness has said, because I realise that this is the only effective protest left to us by a Govt which boasts of its Liberalism, of its representative character, where men are concerned, but ignores the most elementary laws of Liberalism, of Constitutionalism, where women are concerned. Votes and riot are the only forms of pressure to which the present Govt respond. They refuse us votes: we are therefore reduced to riot. The wrongs they inflict on women are no longer tolerable, & we will no longer tolerate them.

I expect, Sir, that at this stage of our agitation, you will recognise—and public opinion will back you in recognising—that, tho having committed the acts, as brought forward by witnesses, we are not guilty of crime, our conduct being fully justified under the circumstances.

I appeal to you to vindicate the fundamental laws of liberty which our country has revered for generations.

I plead not guilty.

Constance Lytton.
Nov. 22. 1911.