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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 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

——————

{1} Flora Drummond.

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

Transcript

COPY.

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.

Letter from Sylvia Pankhurst to Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

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

—————

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}.

—————

{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.

—————

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.

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