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Lawrence, Emmeline Pethick- (1867–1954), suffragette, wife of the 1st Baron Pethick-Lawrence Imagem Com objeto digital
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Circular letter by F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

S.S. ‘Kaisar-i-Hind’.—Describes his and his wife’s meetings with Bose, Gandhi, and Tagore, their visits to Jaipur, Udaipur, and Ahmedabad, and their return to Bombay. Encloses a printed letter (6/135) recording his political impressions of India.—(Later.) His wife’s sudden illness compelled them to abandon their intended visit to Egypt.

(Mechanical copy of a typed original. The postscript was written after the Pethick-Lawrences’ return to England.)

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Transcript

P & O. S. N. Co.,
S.S. Kaisar-I-Hind.
January 19, 1927.

Three men in India stand out head and shoulders above the rest—Gandhi, Tagore, and Sir Jagadis Bose. We were fortunate in knowing all of them before we went out to India, and during the last few weeks of our stay there we had the opportunity of renewing our acquaintance.

We went to lunch with Sir J. Bose in Calcutta on our way to Gauhati. He has a wonderful Institute, buildings and lecture room in front and a beautiful garden court behind. He showed us many fascinating experiments. A plant feeding and automatically ringing a bell with each gulp of food; shading the plant from sunlight the gulps become less and less frequent. A plant’s pulse beating; poison supplied at the root the pulse dies down; restoratives supplied, the plant recovers. But Bose is not merely the world-famous plant physiologist, he is also a great artist, philosopher and patriot, and his explanations of the panels on the walls of his house were full of poetry and beauty.

Gandhi we met at Gauhati, in simplicity of life reminding us forcibly of John the Baptist. Dress a single loin cloth, food the humble fruits of the earth. Surrounded everywhere by hundreds or thousands of devoted followers to whom he is a Mahatma he remains a quiet unassuming man without the slightest pose of saintliness. He discussed mundane affairs quite simply with us in his tiny hut and told us that though on the surface things were not going exactly as his intellect would like, deep down in his consciousness he was content that all was well.

Tagore we went specially to see at his University a hundred miles away from Calcutta. He is a superb figure with his gracious smile and wide understanding and acceptance of life. Very different from the austere personality of Gandhi yet to him equally the spiritual life is the fountain spring of being. Learning, poetry, social service are the channels through which the living water pours out to sustain humanity. Yet a child would have no embarrassment in his presence and the laugh of the poet and of his little playmate would ring out happily together.

Tagore’s University is two sided. One half is for Literae humanae, and here are priceless manuscripts of Sanskrit and ancient Chinese; the other half is intensely practical, the actual demonstration of improved methods of agriculture and simple preventive medicines.

We left with reluctance and sped away westward to have another glimpse of the exquisite Taj at Agra and on from there to visit some of the native States of Rajputana. The rapid fall in temperature coupled with our early arrival at Jaipur (4.27 a.m.) gave us both bad colds but in other respects we were in luck’s way, for in view of the impending visit of the Crown Prince of Sweden all the glory of Jaipur was prepared for display. Enormous State elephants with faces and ears painted with lovely floral designs, solemn bullocks decked out in red and gold cloths, disdainful camels, soldiers in chain armour riding horses padded against primitive weapons—all passed us by in gorgeous procession, first in rehearsal and next day in actual display before the royal guest. Then there were jewels—strings of pearls the size of filberts, diamonds, emeralds, rubies, jade of matchless size and splendour. Next an amazing collection of old Indian paintings. Finally ancient carpets of fabulous worth, and shawls and saris of cashmere and silk exquisite in delicacy and in colour. Of all these we were afforded a special private view in company with the Councillors of State.

After Jaipur, Udaipur, where we were guests of the State and were taken to wondrous palaces enshrined on islands in a lustrous lake. Here Shah Jehan, builder of the Taj, spent his youth exiled by his father, but guest of the Maharana of Udaipur.

The glory of princes is not incompatible with—alas it is often built upon—the poverty of the country side. In Rajputana we introduced ourselves to some of a group of social reformers who are seeking to improve the lot of the peasant, and learnt something of their story. One we tried to interview in the Udaipur jail, but permission was not granted to us and in view of the shortness of our stay we could not press our request.

From Udaipur we went to Ahmedabad where we found one of the few well run Trade Unions in India with a woman as its leading spirit—Miss Anasuya Surabhai—a very remarkable personality who has fought many a battle for freedom both for her sex and for Labour. We also ran out to Gandhi’s “Ashram” a kind of college or fraternity for students. The Mahatma himself was away but his brother showed us over and instructed us in the cottage spinning and weaving which are specialities of Gandhi’s national revival.

From Ahmedabad back to Bombay to the charming roof-flat overlooking the city, the home of our friend Sheldon Bunting where we were entertained as happily as on our first arrival in India. One morning I visited a mill, and went on to see the so-called dwellings—insanitary pigsties would be a more nearly accurate description—in which many of the workers live, I also visited the 16,500 “model” tenements of which because they are uncomfortable, inaccessible, and financially beyond the reach of the workers, no less than 13,500 are untenanted! One day Emmeline addressed a meeting. We also lunched with the Governor and had an interesting talk with him.

We are now on the Kaisar-I-Hind sailing homewards. The Crown Prince of Sweden is on board and has won good opinions among the passengers by his unceremonious behaviour.

I have already written a special letter dealing with all my political impressions which owing to its unusual length and importance I am having printed. I am arranging for a copy to be enclosed with this letter {1}. I have a number of extra copies so if you would like one or more to give to your friends and will let me know, I will send them on as far as available.

Fascinating as our time has been it will be delightful to be home once more among all our friends.

F. W. PETHICK-LAWRENCE.

P.S. Since the above was written after our return to the ship from visiting the famous tanks at Aden, Emmeline contracted a germ which laid her unexpectedly low and made me exceedingly anxious. We abandoned our proposed visit to Egypt, and it was still not possible to land when we reached Marseilles. We accordingly continued on the boat to Plymouth and by the time we reached there her recovery was fortunately nearly complete. She will rest a few days in Weston-super-Mare before returning to London. Fortunately we were blest with beautiful weather the whole of the voyage.

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{1} PETH 6/135.

† Sic.

Carbon copy of a letter from F. W. Pethick-Lawrence to J. M. Keynes

Has returned from India. Encloses a letter summarising his views of the situation in that country (see 6/135), and two others describing the Indian National Congress (wanting) and his meeting with Gandhi, Tagore, and Bose (see 6/133). His wife is recovering from the illness she suffered on board ship. Refers to adverse reactions to his recent pronouncements on the subject of free trade.

Letter from Sylvia Pankhurst to Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

(Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead.)—Thanks her for helping to arrange for the safe birth of her son.

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Transcript

Dearest Emmeline,

I am only allowed to write to Silvio so slip in a note for you to sign.

Yes dear friend he is a fine healthy beautiful Child perfect in every way. Yet I am told if I had not come here {1} when I did I should not have brought him out alive. And that I could not have done so without Lady Barretts help in the nick of time as it was.

So dear it seems I owe him to you and Silvio {1}–You first and through all.

Thanks thanks and love.

Till Friday

Sylvia.

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This letter was evidently written shortly after the birth of Sylvia Pankhurst’s son Richard on 3 December 1927. A few of the words are indistinct.

{1} The reference is to the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, where Lady Barrett was a consultant surgeon. See PETH 9/61.

Letter from Charlotte Despard to Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Roebuck (Dublin).—Discusses her convalescence (from an injury?), and refers to the distress of the poor in Ireland.

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Transcript

Roebuck
22 Novr 1928.

My very dear friend.

I delayed answering your delightful letter until I could use my hurt hand. It is not quite itself yet; but I think like the rest of me it will soon be well.

The time has been a difficult one in some ways; but the compensations were many, and in the Hospital I had solitary hours of great happiness. Often and often I have thought of our strenuous days in the women’s movement.

I say sometimes, one of its chief achi[e]vements and joys was the discovery of woman by woman.

I was grieved to hear that you were laid aside during the Fair-time. I do hope the rest has restored you.

We are having terribly hard times here[. ]Two young men “mad with hunger” broke windows last week to get imprisonment. I fear things are not much better in England. Great changes, I be-lieve are impending

I must write no more. Thank you, dear friend a thousand times for your love and thought of me

I hope still to see you and my other dear friends of the League next year

With affectionate and grateful memories to your husband and true love to yourself

Yrs affectionately
C. Despard

Letter from Shareefah Hamid Ali to Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Hotel Majestic, Avenue Kléber, Place de l’Étoile, Paris.—Encloses some papers she was unable to give her in London. Has been meeting friends and seeing the sights in Paris. Is leaving for India on the 14th.

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Transcript

Hotel Majestic, Avenue Kléber, Place de l’Etoile, Paris
8th June 1935

My dear Mrs Pethick Lawrence

I enclose the Luxembourg Stamp papers which you wanted. I am sorry I could not find it & send it to you in London. I did so wish to say goodbye to you both (if nothing else over the telephone) but my last days in London were so full of engagements—it was a rush to get to the station in time!

I am comfortably settled in room 741 of this Hotel. Mrs Brunschwick gave an at Home for me yesterday where I met many of our French friends—specially the delegates to Istamboul

I saw the Italian Exhibition yesterday & spent hours over it. The old “Primitives” are lovely beyond words. I couldnt tear myself away from them. Miss Getty took me to see Notre Dame in the afternoon. You will be amused to hear that the caretaker of the “Treasures of the Church[”] started muttering something—on Miss Getty making enquiries—he told her “why cant our women dress in such beautiful clothes (pointing to me) they are simple & decent & beautiful”!

Miss Getty said my blue sari had got an admirer!

I had a busy time in London—but I enjoyed the work & my visits to friends very much.

I shall be leaving for India on the 14th

Goodbye My warmest greetings & love to you both

Yours affectionately
Shareefah Hamid Ali

Letter from Charlotte Despard to Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

29 Glenburn Park, Belfast.—Refers to her current circumstances and the arrangements for her birthday celebrations. The world needs true feminism more than ever.

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Transcript

29 Glenburn Park | Belfast
12 June 1935

Mrs Pethick Lawrence

My very dear friend.

On Saturday 15th instant I am having my own little birthday party {1}. You were with us last year and did much to make us all happy and joyful.

I hear that you are deeply engaged in Edinburgh now, so I do not even venture to ask if you can come. All I want you to understand that in the midst of our festivals, as in the more serious moments in our life as a league we could not forget you. Therefore I let you know.

I heard the other day that you have not been very well. I do hope and trust that you are not overtasking yourself. You should take rest when you feel it is to be necessary.

I cannot expect to be so strong as I once was, but I man[a]ge still to do some work, and to encourage and cheer those who are young.

I am glad [I] came to the North. This is the industrial part of Ireland, and there are many fine industrials here.

Some of these days if we meet I must tell you about them.

In the meantime I send you my love, complet[e] with an earnest desire that you may suc[c]eed in your present venture. Your husband too!

I don’t know what you think about the present situation in Europe and indeed throughout the world. I feel that there was never a time when feminism of the true sort was more needed than it is now.

I am so glad to hear that you are taking the chair on the day of the official birthday party.

We always miss our dear Dr Knight. The other officers, Miss Underwood in particular, are very good.

Women have not yet still {2} wanted. Women† has not reached her true position as she has in Russia—therefore our League has still its uses.

Earnestly wishing that all may go well with you

Yours in true affection
C. Despard

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Full stops have been supplied at the end of a few sentences.

{1} Charlotte Despard’s birthday, 15 June, was celebrated each year by the members of the Women’s Freedom League. But the distinction between the party mentioned here, which Pethick-Lawrence was not expected to attend, and the official party mentioned later, which she was to chair, is unclear.

{2} This word is indistinct.

† Sic.

Letter from Shareefah Hamid Ali to F. W. and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

The Residency, Satara.—Refers to their pleasant times together in England and sends photographs of her home. Encourages Mrs Pethick-Lawrence to attend the All-India Women’s Conference. Is running a class for midwives.

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Transcript

The Residency, | Satara.
12th October 1935 {1}

Dear Mr & Mrs Pethick Lawrence

I have been wanting to write to you for many weeks past but have not had either the leisure or the energy to do so. But you have not been out of my thoughts dear friends. My husband and I very often remember & talk of the lovely day we spent with you in your country house—& I have more recent memories of your delightful hospitality in London. I was such a nuisance losing my keys & leaving things behind!

I sent you last week—a photograph of us both—which we hope you will like & keep for our sake. I also enclose one or two pictures of our home in Satara—taken by my husband. This is rather an interesting old house—it used to be the Durbar Hall of the British Residents—in the times of the Maratha kings. We have a lovely garden which I enjoy more than anything else—we have converted it to our liking—“Indian atmosphere”!

Mrs Lawrence I do hope you will accept the All India Women’s Conference’s invitation & come out to us this cold weather? If you do please keep at least 2 weeks to be spent in our home. We are at Panchgani this week.

I am running a large “midwives” training class. We have 75 candidates & six instructors. It is intensely interesting.

With affectionate regards
yours affectionately
Shareefah Hamid Ali

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{1} The date was added in the margin after most of the letter was written.

Carbon copy of a letter from Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence to Shareefah Hamid Ali

Has been receiving treatment for deafness in Switzerland and supporting her husband’s election campaign. Thanks her for the photographs (see 2/35). She will not be able to attend the conference in India, but is very interested in the progress of the women’s movement there.

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Transcript

24th. November. 1935.

My dear Mrs. Hamid Ali,

I am afraid you will think that I am most remiss in not having replied to your letter before. I was away in Switzerland when it came receiving treatment from a specialist for deafness, and while I was there the General Election was announced and I had to hurry home to take my part in it and support my husband’s candidature in East Edinburgh. I am so glad to say that he was elected Member of Parliament for that constituency.

I am perfectly charmed with the photographs that you send me. I think the photograph of you and your husband is delightful and most beautiful, especially of you. I was also greatly interested to see the pictures of your home. Thank you so much for sending them to me. They will serve as a very delightful remembrance of the very great pleasure it was to my husband and to me to meet you and to hear something of your wonderful work.

It is very kind of you to invite me to the Indian Conference, but I am sorry to say that my health prevents me from accepting such an attractive invitation. The treatment in Switzerland for my deafness has not up till now been a success and I am extremely deaf, and until this condition passes away I am not fit to take part in any public life at all. I believe it is only a temporary condition, but I have no idea how long it is going to last.

I shall be with you in thought at your Congress, and I shall follow your deliberations with intense interest. As you know, my whole life has been given to the woman’s movement, and there is no development of the woman’s that I follow with such interest as that in India. The movement there fulfills† all that I had hoped and dreamed of in my young days. It is so valiant and courageous, so definite and determined and at the same time so entirely free from bitterness or narrowness of conception. People in the very highest position have testified to their belief that it is the most important and most uplifting movement in India, and I am happy to think that such general acknowledgement and admiration has been accorded publicly. I trust and pray that the woman’s movement will keep itself free of all political contamination and will maintain its character and will ultimately set an ideal which will be followed by the rest of the country. India has such a very great future.

With warmest good wishes,

Yours very sincerely,
[blank]

Mrs. Hamid Ali,
The Residency,
Satara,
India.

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† Sic.

Carbon copy of a letter from Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence to Victor Gollancz

Offers to send him the typescript of her autobiography, to be entitled The Old Order Changeth (published as My Part in a Changing World), the substance of which deals with the suffrage movement and the peace movement.

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Transcript

16th. November, 1937.
Victor Gollancz Limited, | Publishers,
14, Henrietta Street, | Strand, W.C.2.

Dear Mr. Gollancz,

I have been engaged during the last year in writing the story of my life and I should like to submit it to you if you would be interested to see it.

The title I have chosen is “The Old Order Changeth” with a sub-title “An Autobiography” over my name.

The substance of the book which deals with the suffrage movement and with the peace movement, both of which had international aspects, will be of interest in the Dominions and also in America which I have visited five times.

There are twenty-two chapters and I am just finishing the twenty-second. The whole consists of about 150,000 words.

Would you care for me to send the typescript in a few days when it is quite finished, to be submitted to your reader? If so, and his report is favourable, we could perhaps then meet to decide details,

Yours sincerely,
[Added in pencil] Signed E P L

Draft of a letter from Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence to Victor Gollancz

‘As from’ 11 Old Square, London, W.C.2.—Accepts his terms (for publishing her autobiography; see 1/366). Will send the revised manuscript in January. The book should sell well in America, and might form the basis of a film about the suffrage movement.

(Marked ‘Copy’, but probably a draft.)

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