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Typed copy of a letter from Emmeline Pankhurst to Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence



Boulogne sur Mer.
September 8th, 1912.

My dear Mrs Lawrence:—

It is during a breathing space such as we have had that one is able to quietly take stock of the situation and see things in their true perspective and this I have been doing. No doubt you and Mr Lawrence have also been thinking much about the Union and its work. We, Mrs Tuke, Annie, Christabel and I have met here and had a long talk and as a result I write you this letter which embodies our views. I want you to regard it as a business letter and to realise that in all our hearts are feelings which are very deep and real but which it would be out of place to express here.

First let me tell you how matters stand.

1. Of course you have been kept informed of the Government’s proceedings to recover the costs of the prosecution and how after much effort the sale at Holmwood has been for a time postponed.

2. I enclose a letter claiming compensation which has been answered to the effect that we are travelling abroad. This claim is likely to be followed by others.

3. The new premises are nearing completion. Mrs Tuke and I return to London next week to superintend furnishing and removal. Before going to Evian-les-Bains for our cure we deposited with the solicitor, Mr Blount, a sum of money to cover the rent for three years so that the guarantors are now entirely protected against possible loss.

4. Christabel leaves Boulogne next week to establish herself in Paris. It is commonly known who she is and where she is and so we have decided that it is better she should be in Paris the seat of French Government, where she will be in touch with the representatives of the English Press and also that the moment has come for her to resume her own name and live quite openly. She will now sign her articles and letters.

Now as to the situation as it seems to us to affect you and Mr Lawrence, and your position in the Union as Treasurer.

It is quite evident that the authorities and also the Insurance Companies and property owners mean to take full advantage of the fact that they can attack Mr Lawrence with profit and through Mr Lawrence weaken the Movement. So long as Mr Lawrence can be connected with militant acts involving damage to property, they wil make him pay. Nothing but the cessation of militancy, (which of course is unthunkable† {1} before the vote is assured) or his complete ruin will stop this action on their part. They see in Mr Lawrence a potent weapon against the militant movement and they mean to use it. This weapon is a powerful one. By its use they can not only ruin Mr Lawrence, but they also intend, if they can, to divert our funds. If suffragists, feeling strongly as they do, the injustice of one having to suffer for the acts of otheres, raised a fund to recoup Mr Lawrence, it would mean that our members[’] money would go finally into the coffers of the enemy and the fighting fund would be depleted or ended. It would also reduce militancy to a farce for the damage we did with one hand would be repaired with the other. It is well to see things at their very worst especially when the very worst is not only possible but highly probable. In one night, by one militant act, hundreds of thousands of pounds might be involved and the only individuals in the Movement who would be affected apart from imprisonment of those responsible would be you two. So long as you are a responsible official of this Union this will be so. Then there is the Albert Hall Meeting. What we say at that meeting is of vital importance. I know that it will be my duty as Chairman to make a militant speech, a speech that will lead to further acts of reprisal on the part of the Government if it is followed, as it will be, by a fresh outbreak of militancy. No doubt there will be another prosecution for conspiracy in which those who share responsibility with me will be involved. The Gov. can only take me when they proceed against me and that will do them more harm than good but in taking you they repeat the money getting process. I know you will understand me when I say that if to ruin Mr Lawrence would help the Woman’s Cause I should think it worth while for what is the individual as compared with the Cause? When however far from helping it is a source of weakness, a positive injury, then the case is different! What is to be done?

This is what we suggest after long and anxious thought. It is a way of retaining your active participation in a great Imperial Movement which is just beginning and at the same time of preventing the Government from striking at the militant Movement in England through you. The Union has paved the way by my two visits to Canada, by the establishment of the first W.S.P.U. there, by the presence of scattered members and by the deputation to Borden. Will you for a time lead the Imperial Suffrage Movement in Canada? It is a great mission and a great role. The Government would get a huge rebuff. Like all their previous acts of tyranny this latest one would recoil on their own heads and they would find that instead of crushing the Movement in England by attacking you they had actually helped to spread it throughout the Empire. We have often felt in this Movement that we were guided in a mysterious way. Perhaps the events and trials of the past few months have been preparing us for greater developments. You can do this work. For me to undertake it would not change the situation here for the difficulties and dangers would still remain.

Following on the deputation to Borden we are sending Miss Wylie (whose brother is a Canadian M.P.) to organise our scattered members. We are endeavouring to get together a special Canadian Fund to launch the Campaign. The growing importance of Canada makes a W.S.P.U. Movement there imperative even if you do not agree to control and guide it.

Of course you might decide to carry out the project of foreign travel of which you have so often talked. All that I have written is with the full approval and concurrence of our friends who share my anxieties and hopes. Please show my letter to Mr Lawrence and discuss it with him and believe that I have left unwritten many expressions of affection and appreciation which we all feel very deeply. I hope your holiday has been a pleasant one. It must have been a great joy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I send this letter to New York in the hope that you may get it before sailing.

Very affectionately yours,
(Signed) E. Pankhurst.


A typed transcript.

{1} Followed by a superfluous closing bracket.

The Women’s Bulletin, including a memoir of Evelyn Sharp by Lord Pethick-Lawrence

(Mechanical copy of a typed original.)


by The Rt. Hon. Lord Pethick-Lawrence of Peaslake

Evelyn Sharp was a valiant suffragette, and a most lovable friend. She had great talents and devoted all of them to the woman’s movement willingly and without stint.

She was one of a distinguished family. Her brother, Cecil, will live in history as the compiler of old English songs and folk dances which he collected from remote parts of England and America. Another brother was head of the London Fire Brigade and originated the particular bell which the fire engines ring to clear the streets. She herself before the outbreak of the militant movement was a journalist and an author of children’s stories. She had an instinctive insight into a child’s mind and her books attained great popularity among the young.

Much of this work she had to abandon as she threw herself more and more into the activities of the votes-for-women cause. She spoke at meetings, she wrote articles for the press, she took part in illegal militancy, suffered imprisonment, and underwent the hunger strike. She never lost her sense of humour, she never became bitter, she never forsook her innate humility.

I well remember the occasion when in 1912 I called on her to make what I suppose was the greatest sacrifice of all for the cause—the abandonment of all her outside work in order to devote her whole time to editing the weekly organ—Votes for Women. I had long foreseen that one day I myself as editor of the paper might be arrested and I had turned over in my mind to whom I could entrust the position during my imprisonment. I could think of no one who could fill it half so well as Evelyn. But I realised that if I approached her before my arrest she was likely to offer all sorts of objections and I decided to wait until the event occurred when I felt sure her loyalty and devotion would sweep all hesitation aside.

But I had not counted upon my arrest being made late in the evening with the instruction my wife and me to prepare ourselves for immediate departure to the police station. The paper was only 24 hours away from going to the press. How was I going to communicate with Evelyn in time? At that moment our front door bell rang. A visitor was announced—Miss Evelyn Sharp! For no particular reason she had selected that evening for coming to see my wife and myself! We were allowed a few minutes’ conversation with her. I put my request. She accepted the onerous responsibility without demur.

Through the troublous months and years that followed until the vote was won she remained at her post either alone or in association with myself and my wife; and in her expert and courageous hands the continuity of the paper and its policy was maintained with dignity and determination.

The friendship between us was sealed by this sacrifice and we were fortunate in finding ourselves in agreement regarding many of the world issues which arose after the women’s victory was won. I was particularly pleased that she was able to make a second literary reputation. Her articles in the press had a pungency all her own without a trace of malice. Among her noteworthy books were a biography of Hertha Ayrton, “The London Child”, “The Child Grown Up” and an autobiography—“Unfinished Adventure”. She also wrote the libretto for Vaughan Williams’ musical comedy “The Poisoned Kiss”. It was an added happiness to my wife and myself when in 1933 she married our old friend Henry Nevinson.

As she passed into the eighties she came to need the care and attention which only a nursing home can provide and I frequently gave myself the pleasure of visiting her there. On these occasions, up till a little while before she died her face would light up with interest as we shared some reminiscence of the suffrage days.

Pethick Lawrence.

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