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Pankhurst, Dame Christabel Harriette (1880–1958), suffragette Imagen Con objetos digitales
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Letter from Laurence Housman to Lord Pethick-Lawrence

Longmeadow, Street, Somerset.—Discusses his feelings towards Christabel and Emmeline Pankhurst, and declines to contribute to the cost of a statue of the latter.

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Transcript

Longmeadow, Street, Somerset
Nov 27th 1958

Dear Pethick Lawrence

(If I may drop formality in memory of old days) I was very glad to hear from you: but I am 94 and am a rather worn-out old man. You may be surprised to hear that Miss Pankhurst has never appealed to me: her companion (Annie Kenny†.) did. She and I did not like each other. There was a silly Suffragette fable, that I was in love with her: and that she had made our marriage conditional on their getting the vote. Mrs Pankhurst I liked & respected; but I did not approve of the section which indulged in violence and destruction. Also I disliked that final triumphal procession along Picadilly† to curry favour with the Government when War broke out. Also she tied some Australian Prime Minister to her tail. The tragic moment to my mind was when she had got as far as a public meeting in London, when the Police were after her. She had managed to get there, and was just about to speak, when the Police broke in. “Women! They are taking me!” she cried. The women all jumped to their feet, but not (as she had hoped) to become violent. “You brutes!” was all they cried. Whereas she had wanted a real battle! And if a few women and police got killed,—all the better for the cause.

So that’s that! And you can leave me out of your subscribers for any additions to Mrs Pankhurst’s Statue in Westminster[.]

I wonder whether you know that I have become a member of “the Society of Friends” and as “a Quaker” am now a staunch Pacifist! Thus you & I have become far separated in our ideas; but not in our old friendship, I hope.

Ever yours very sincerely
Laurence Housman

PS. I’m afraid I have mislaid your present address, with the letter I received from you. LH

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† 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 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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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.

Letter from Sylvia Pankhurst to Lord Pethick-Lawrence

P.O. Box 1896, Addis Ababa.—Thanks him for a copy of his speech at the memorial service (for Dame Christabel Pankhurst). Reflects on the suffrage movement and the the Pethick-Lawrences’ contributions to it.

(Letter-head of the Ethiopia Observer. Sylvia Pankhurst is named as Editor.)

Letter from Sylvia Pankhurst to Lord Pethick-Lawrence

(Addis Ababa.)—Thanks Lady Pethick-Lawrence for an account of the celebra-tion of her mother (Emmeline Pankhurst)’s centenary. Suggests ideas for a suitable memorial (for Christabel?), and recalls the courageous actions of Princess Tsahai.

Letter from Sylvia Pankhurst to Lord Pethick-Lawrence

P.O. Box 1896, Addis Ababa.—Declines his offer of a second copy of Christabel’s book. Her father’s letters to her mother should be included in her memoir of him, but they are in the hands of someone outside the family.

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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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.

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