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Letter from Sylvia Pankhurst to Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

(3 Charteris Road, Woodford Green, Essex?)—Sends news of Richard’s health and development.

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Transcript

Boxing Day

Dearest Emmeline,

The spirit moves me to write to you to say that in spite of plenty of anxieties I feel a flood of happiness today. Raddie {1} and Richard are in the garden. It is warm and spring-like.

Richard has not had so much as a cold this winter! He is bright and well. Instead of having the doctor like last year he was able to make Christmas presents for his friends and dress the tree Mrs Brimley {1} brought him. He stitched over a pencil drawing on paper tacked to the ribbon to make me little calendar banners. Then we tore the paper away, and the red ribbon was left. He was greatly pleased.

He looks straight and tall. His brows are straight, and his thoughts are kind. He puts bread and cheese by the mousehold†, crumbs for the birds, milk for the cat. He brought his money box to me to buy a present for Daddy. He has his own ways and his own character. He does things one would never think of and says: “I have a good idea.” I gaze at him, amazed, and say to myself: where have you come from, little man? He is physically joyous as I never was—plunging into nearly cold water with a zest—not every day—but when he feels like it (other days prefers warm) {2}. He loves to “dance” and jump and climb.

It is a daily marvel this new person—like noone else—himself. One realises the miracle more when one knows one bore him. I look at his father—the boy is not him—not me—new entirely. How have you—so entirely—individual—sprung from us? I ask it to myself so often. This year when I heard the carol singers I thought so often of waiting for him at Hampstead. How wonderful it all was. How you came to make his happy arrival safe and all that one could desire. So I feel a great flood of gratitude and joy.

With love
Sylvia P.

What I feel so vividly of his being a new person is true of all the children I know, but it comes home so forcibly when every day one sees it in a close intimate way one felt generally before—not with this piercing astonishme[nt] {3}.

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{1} Reading uncertain.

{2} ‘other … warm’ interlined. Brackets supplied.

{3} A small piece of the paper has been torn away.

† Sic.

Letter from Sylvia Pankhurst to Lord Pethick-Lawrence

P.O. Box 1896, Addis Ababa.—Describes her new house and the local soil and flora. Richard is teaching history at the University College of Addis Ababa. Discusses plans for the Ethiopia Observer, and the effects of the stopping of the Suez Canal on Ethiopian trade.

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Transcript

P. O. Box 1896, Addis Ababa
19 November 1956

Dear Fred,

After the weariness of an hotel, we at last have a charming house surrounded by eucalyptus trees. We reach it up an avenue of eucalyptus and there is a row of them bordering our land all round and quite a wood behind the house. We have some geraniums some of which grow 8 feet high and mean to have more. They bloom all the year round here. We have a few roses and hope to have any more as well as other flowers. There is a room in front, as you will see from the photograph {1}, which has windows the entire length. This is where I work. There is a little veranda where we have lunch and a round summerhouse with a thatched roof with a window on two sides. I believe that will be a good place for writing on chilly days of which there are many. At present it is used by a man who does odd jobs and gardening. Later there will be a house for him built in Ethiopian style. They make a rather elaborate framework of thin would {2} and new plaster the walls outside and in until they are quite thick. Such houses are warm and durable. The plaster they use is very elaborate; they make a sort of pudding on the ground of the earth mixed with water; after stirring and waiting several days they sprinkle into† it with chopped grass, and finally it becomes a durable plaster which will last it is said for twenty years or more without repair when applied to the walls.

The earth is very light here; much of it is red. It is volcanic. It is very deep; one can see where the streams have worn it away 10, 20 or even more feet of earth often without a stone, which looks as though it had been cut artificially it is so sheer and straight. Where they are cutting new walls one can see high banks on one or both sides, all fine earth with hardly a stone. This is like the earth the Blue Nile carries to the Sudan and Egypt from the Ethiopian highlands.

Towards the end of September one suddenly sees all the fields, all the grass by the roadside, golden yellow with the so-called Maskal flowers. They come out at this season, the anniversary of the bringing to Ethiopia of a piece of the “true cross” found by the Empress Helena in Jerusalem. These flowers last only a couple of months or so at that season and then disappear. That is whey they are called Maskal flowers. Maskal means the Cross. It is curious that though the plants bearing these flowers grow from one foot to ten foot high according to whether they are in a field or just by the roadside without much soil or moisture one does not notice them till suddenly the hills and valleys are all golden yellow. The green buds do not show among the green and the flowers all seem to burst out together. They are born† on branches sticking out from the main stems which are frail and slender. They make an amazingly beautiful show. About the same season yellow acacia and the little golden balls of the mimosa come into bloom and Addis Ababa which was all blue-grey-green becomes glorified with gold.

Richard is teaching at the University College of Addis Ababa Economic History, African History and Ethiopian History. He is studying hard as well as teaching.

I suppose by this time you will have had a copy of our new monthly “The Ethiopian Observer”. We have devoted the first issue to the Emperor’s visit to the Ogaden and to Somali problems. The second issue will be Addis Ababa: Sir Patrick Abercrombie’s plan for it, a survey of population, History of the town and descriptons as it is, poem inspired by its history. The third issue will be devoted to the Ethiopian woman: history, education, prospects. The fourth will be Public Health in Ethiopia. The most difficult thing here is to find efficient secretarial assistance.

We often think of you and all friends at home. What an awful mess about Suez! {1}

With love from us both
Affectionately Sylvia P.

The stopping of Suez Canal is ruinous to this country. Coffee is their greatest export—after that hides, skins, oilseeds, honey, beeswax and various agricultural products. Coffee is far and away the greatest source of revenue. It goes in largest quantity to U.S.A., after that Britain and Europe. The East does not take it. The Emperor’s visit to India, Japan, etc., is opportune and some trade will result, but not to compare I fear with coffee. Transport problems in this mountainous land make cereals a costly export and cereals can be obtained much more cheaply from the great farms, highly mechanised elsewhere on the great plains.

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Letter-head of the Ethiopia Observer. Sylvia Pankhurst is named as the Editor. A few changes have been made to the punctuation.

{1} PETH 9/68.

{2} This is the apparent reading. Presumably the intended word is ‘wood’.

† Sic.

Letter from Richard Pankhurst to Lord Pethick-Lawrence

P.O. Box 1896, Addis Ababa.—His mother’s death came without warning, while her mind was still full of plans. He will publish the issues of the Ethiopia Observer already in hand, and then close it. Invites Pethick-Lawrence to contribute to a memorial issue. His mother will be buried with the victims of the Graziani massacre.

Copy of a circular letter by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

(Carbon copy of a typed transcript, with two handwritten corrections.)

Transcript

COPY OF A LETTER RECEIVED FROM MRS LAWRENCE
Dated Nov. 4, 1914, 1. a.m.

Election Night.

Although it is one o’clock in the morning, I must try before I sleep to get down some of the impressions of the evening. Miss Doty, whose article in the Century interested me so deeply, and her friend “Elizabeth” (Miss Watson) celebrated the first anniversary of their voluntary imprisonment by dining with me and taking us afterwards to the night court. On the way to the Court we mixed with the Election crowd—The streets were thronged. It was a superb night, the moon just past the full. We reached the Court about 9.30 and were taken to the front place where we could see and hear well. A case was being heard concerning two coloured women—a mother and a daughter. Two detectives, a white man and a coloured man[,] gave evidence of how they had entrapped the younger woman to take into her home first one and the other—The story of detective which was one infinitely shocking {1}—and what I have heard since about this business impresses me still further both with the futility of the system and above all with the terrible power placed in the hands of men against women—a power likely to lead to the most grave abuses. Both mother and daughter poured out a dramatic volume of words and gesture as they sat just in front of the judge, addressing their remarks to him as one would address a man in his office or study—no formalities at all. With what seemed to me extraordinary patience, (after my experience of police courts at home) the judge listened without interruption or comment. Finally he discharged the two women. This action was entirely in accordance with the inner verdict which I had pronounced, (for of course every member in the auditorium has his or her own views on every case)[.] Had I been Judge I should not have hesitated between the two sides—the women excited, voluble, indignant, tearful—and the men whom I would not, I felt as I scanned their faces, have trusted a yard. The Judge then retired to his sanctum and invited us to follow. We were introduced and a conversation ensued. We touched on the case. The Judge I found did not altogether believe the story of the women and was inclined to think them guilty. “But”, he said, “you see in this Court I am both Judge and Jury, therefore I have to give the accused the benefit of every doubt.” When he resumed his seat upon the Bench, he asked me to sit beside him. At the opening of the next case he said to the woman who had been just arrested, {2} “You must understand that you have a right to obtain the services of a lawyer, you have a right to telephone for your friends or mail for them free of charge. You can have your case tried now, or you can have it postponed. But you may have to pass the interval in the detention cells.” The woman elected have her case tried at once. It was a very trivial affair of ringing a house-door bell and causing annoyance to a tenant of the house. The woman denied the wish to annoy and promised not to ring the bell again and was discharged.

Being Election night and the police apparently otherwise engaged, no further cases were forthcoming and the Court rose till midnight. Usually there are many cases of soliciting, which as at home is a penal office {3} for a woman but not for a man. I was told by my friends that women who had to pass through the streets alone at night were constantly pestered by men, but there was no remedy; they just had to put up with it. As in England the legal tradition is that men have to be protected from the temptation of the woman who who† alone is responsible for the social evil. After the Session was over we had another interesting talk with Judge Barlow, who I am told is the best and most fairminded of all the judges, at the Night Court (as in the case of Judge Hoyt) {4} I saw the brighter side of the administration. He invited me to come again on some more typical occasion and was most friendly, reminding me very much of Tim Healy. He wore just a blase† graduate’s gown. I was then taken over the place, introduced to the prison or native police-court Matron, and allowed to enter the cells and to talk to the inmates. The whole place compares very favourably with our police court arrangements. I have not yet seen a prison, but from Miss Doty’s record, the prison conditions seem to be worse than our own.

One great feature of the Court is the total elimination from it of the police. The one or two officers are civilians. This reform dates from 1910. Judge Barlow confessed that he was very much averse to the change at the time, but that its results have been wholly good. Detectives attend as witnesses, but have no privileged status, and are treated exactly as other witnesses, by the Judge. In spite of their good points I am, as I said before, horrified at the methods of the detectives in hunting out prostitutes. In some cases they will take a woman into a saloon and give her drinks for a week, and will tempt her in every way to invite them home. They will confess to letting the women get them supper, to playing cards with them and staying from 11 till 3 a.m. After all this is done they will suddenly turn and arrest them and drag them into court. They have these women entirely in their power, and men being men it is inconceivable that they do not take advantage of their power when it suits them. I would not trust such men, placed in such conditions, one inch. On matters relating to morality and the judicial treatment of sex problems, New York seems to me to be worse than London—though some details of administration are better. The point of view is worse. It seems to me that the women of New York, speaking generally, are much too complacent with regard to this status of their sex in very many respects. We came back and mixed with the crowd again—learnt that Governor Glyn (Democrat) was out and Whitman (Republican) was in, and wondered how this would affect the position of our women comrades Commissioner Doty and Investigator Watson, both holding appointments under State patronage. Could not get any news of Suffrage States, so returned as it was half an hour over midnight already. These two women know New York through and through. If only I could find time to let them take and educate me for a week as they want to do! Miss Watson knows everything there is to be known about women[’]s labour conditions and wages in New York. She is the recognised expert investigator par excellence, and employed on all enquiry commissions. The point of view of both these women is identical with my own[,] while their knowledge of facts is perfectly wonderful. They are completely human in their outlook. We are already great friends and have several plans to carry out together, if time can be found. Truly this is a most fascinating world and I’m learning hard.

Greeting to all friends.
(Signed) E.P.L.

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{1} Altered by hand ink from ‘The story of detective [blank] was to me infinitely shocking’. The copyist evidently had difficulty reading the handwriting here.

{2} Comma substituted for full stop.

{3} A slip for ‘offence’.

{4} ‘as … Hoyt’ interlined. Brackets supplied.

† Sic.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence to Naomi Lutyens

Fourways, Gomshall.—Is delighted by her decision to devote herself to social reform, and has communicated on her behalf with representatives of a Club.

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Transcript

Fourways. Gomshall.
Dec. 10. 1942

My very dear Naomi.

Many thanks for your lovely letter. I was particularly glad to get it, as I have been thinking of you much & often, since you brought the light of your dear countenance last Monday {1}. I wanted to send you a line, but did not know where to address you.

Oh yes indeed—you made it quite clear to me—for it needed no words of explanation,—that your heart was full of love for others & that you needed to find the rightest & best way of expressing it in Service. It is a very great delight to me to have you come & talk to me—bringing your gifts of charm & vitality & youth, & giving me the sense of continuity, now that my little day is almost done.

I wrote the next day to Mr Holloway and to Beth Macara. I want you to know the people who could give you the fullest opportunity for knowing all about the Club, so that you can make your decision.

I am so glad that you see what is the heart & essence of any social reform & are not satisfied with mere tinkering & palliating. It takes “a brain” to grasp that idea!

I have the greatest confidence in your ability. You see I know you not from a few conversations only. I knew your parents in their youth—& you as an infant raconteuse! So I have a background!

Also I know something of the difficulties & tests you have had to meet, & your courage & gaiety & unbreakable spirit win sincerest tribute fom me. It is not only brain but character as well as every other qualification—all are needed in this great fight against greed & aggression in High Places.

In fact, dear Naomi, you are just the colleague I should choose to have—if I had any choice in the matter.

My love to you. Yours. {2}

Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

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The letter has been marked at the head in red biro, ‘From Lady Pethick Lawrence’.

{1} 7th.

{2} The passage from ‘& gaiety’ to the end is marked in the margin with a line in red biro.

Letter from Lord Pethick-Lawrence to Lady Pethick-Lawrence

Viceroy’s House, New Delhi.—The Cabinet mission were met at Delhi by the Viceroy, whose bereavement has visibly affected him. At Karachi they met the Governor of Sind, and Alexander joined the mission. Reflects on their busy programme.

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Transcript

The Viceroy’s House, New Delhi
Mch 24. 46

My dear

I have just arrived, after a perfect journey. It is an entirely novel experience for me to be a “great” personage & to be received everywhere with the state befitting my position. But it doesnt embarrass me any more than it would to peel potatoes with a cottager’s wife.

Though it is midday it is surprisingly cool just like a delightful June day in England & there is a bowl of roses on a side table.

The Viceroy met us at the aerodrome & took me with him here, the other ministers following in other cars. His bereavemt has visibly affected him {1}. He looks haggard & weary.

We spent a very pleasant evening with the Governor of Sind {2} on our arrival at Karachi yesterday. Albert Alexander came a little later & has come on with us in our plane this morning.

We have a very full programme of work in front of us & an immense number of people to see during the next fortnight.

I am to be fetched by an A D C & taken to lunch in a few minutes. So I will finish this letter now with all my love to my darling

Your own
Boy

This letter may reach you before th 2 I wrote at Tunis & one posted at Karachi {3}.

Love to May Lydia & the girls.

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The letter contains a few characteristically abbreviated words, including ‘th’ for ‘the’.

{1} Lord Wavell’s son-in-law, Major the Hon. Simon N. Astley, had died at Quetta on 16 March following a motor accident (L. G. Pine, New Extinct Peerage).

{2} Sir Francis Mudie.

{3} PETH 6/146–8.

Letter from Lord Pethick-Lawrence to Lady Pethick-Lawrence

2 Willingdon Crescent, New Delhi.—The Cabinet mission have met with the Executive Council, the Viceroy, and the Provincial Governors. Discussions proper begin next week, but Gandhi has been invited for a preliminary chat. Has engaged to dine with Agatha Harrison and Mrs Naidu.

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Transcript

2 Willingdon Crescent {1}
Office of Cabinet Delegation, The Viceroy’s House, New Delhi

Mch 28. 46

My dear.

Since I wrote to you last my days have been more & more crowded up with engagements & I have had very little time to myself. We have been getting down to the main task of the mission & there is very little to tell you except wht has probably appeared in the British Press. We saw the V’s Executive Council on Tuesday {2} and after several talks with the V himself we saw the Provincial Governors for 4 hours this afternoon & are to see them again for 2 or 3 hours tomorrow morning {3}. Next week we are to start on the “discussions” proper on Monday {4} & they will continue for a fortnight. Among our visitors will be Gandhi {5} & I have invited him to come to this house for a previous chat a day or two before the formal interview.

The cool spell which we struck in Delhi has passed & we are now experiencing the normal weather of the year rising from about 80º to 90º. This is by no means unbearable but we are threatened with a further rise of 20º to 30º later on. It is all dry heat which is a great mercy.

I have taken to having a walk before breakfast about 7.30 to 8. Then to walk to my office through the V’s garden (about 10 min). I dont walk again till evening & then only if I have time.

I am looking forward to having a letter from you soon. I think you will probably find tht sending to the India Office as EK {6} does is better for I have already had several letters from her.

We have Agatha Harrison coming to dinner to night & tomorrow Mrs Sarojini Naidu. Saturday is a day with no engagements fixed at present & Sunday I am hoping Gandhi will be able to come at 7. PM.

Dear old Sweetheart I hope you are enjoying your dear self. It will be a great delight to come back to you but tht is a long way off yet.

Your own precious love
Boy.

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There are a few characteristically abbreviated words, including ‘wht’ for ‘what’.

{1} This line of the address is handwritten.

{2} 26 March.

{3} Notes of these meetings are printed in The Transfer of Power, vol. vii (Nos. 6, 7, 14, 17, and 20).

{4} 1 April.

{5} Gandhi’s name is written in large letters.

{6} Esther Knowles.

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