Item 167 - Letter from Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence to the Women’s Social and Political Union and F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

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Letter from Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence to the Women’s Social and Political Union and F. W. Pethick-Lawrence


  • 26 Mar. 1909 (Creation)

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Holloway Prison.—Is encouraged by news of their fund-raising and by the progress of the paper (Votes for Women). Urges them to make a success of the Albert Hall Demonstration and to wear the Union’s colours at all times.

(Written on a printed form. A piece of paper was pasted over the second message, which was copied out on another sheet (7/166).)



Holloway Prison. March 26th 1909.

My dear Friends, & Fellow Members of our beloved Union.

I send you greeting & love. I am with you constantly in thought & spirit & desire. Very soon I shall be with you in the flesh. I have felt & I still feel the support of your thoughts & good wishes. You must know that I have not seen a newspaper since I came here. I am very ignorant as to how the world is wagging. In Holloway “nobody knows nothing” so it would be quite useless to ask questions. Knowing nothing can be carried to a fine art. But across the night of oblivion glorious flashes of good tidings have come to me. One was the Report sent for my signature. Great was my satisfaction to know that we had raised the whole £20,000 during the year. That we should be very near to our mark, I felt sure, before I came here, but “Oh the little more, & how much it is; The little less, & what worlds away.” {1} In our Union we pride ourselves on attaining our standards! Another great joy to the heart of your Treasurer was to hear the sum raised in donations & promises during Self Denial Week. Eight thousand pounds is a good start at the beginning of the new financial year towards the fifty thousands we mean to realize unless we get the vote before the end of next February. I seem to hear some of you gasp “Fifty thousand pounds”! I will tell you how it is to be raised. We have proved, have we not, that we ourselves are good for £20,000? We gave our utmost last year, we shall go on giving our utmost. The remaining £30,000 has to come from a public not yet touched. And what we have to do without a moments delay, every one of us, is to go about everywhere preaching the gospel of Votes for Women & bringing as many people as we can into the Movement. Especially must new people be brought by all our members to our great Meetings. And now I come to the main point of this letter which I write to you from my prison cell. I have a great great wish. And if I tell it to you, I know that you will fulfil it. I want the Albert Hall Demonstration on April 29th to be the greatest success, the most magnificent triumph that our Agitation has ever yet achieved. I beg every member in London to make the success of this Meeting her individual responsibility & to concentrate from now all her energies upon it. Take the tickets & sell them to friends. Let each one be responsible for a certain number & for their value in cash. If you cannot sell them all in the usual way, persuade some wealthy friend to purchase tickets which can be given to those who cannot afford to buy for themselves. But make up your mind that you will dispose of 6, 10, 20 or 50 tickets, as the case may be. The occasion is a particularly significant one. Women suffragists from every civilized country in the world will be representing their respective organizations, at the International Suffragist Congress in London. And this Albert Hall Meeting is to give them welcome in the name of the Women’s Social & Political Union. They have most cordially accepted our invitation to be present, & a certain number of seats have been reserved for them. It is also a Demonstration, in honour of all our members who have suffered imprisonment for the sake of women’s emancipation. They will come from the North & the South, the East & the West to the centre of reunion in the Albert Hall. They will wear their prison dress. Seats immediately behind the speakers will be reserved for them. Many interesting developments will be revealed as time goes on. It is to be a field day of the Militant Movement. I am allowed only one sheet of paper for this my one monthly letter. I would say more about this matter, but space forbids. Will you, dear women in this Union, {2} read into my brief words all that my heart could wish.

I want to tell you how delighted I am that the Paper {3}—our Paper—is developing so rapidly. I hear it has reached 21,000 already. I hope it will reach 25,000 before I come back. That will be another joy. My Three Wishes! How splendidly they have been carried out. With all my heart I thank you all.

Oh to see our flag again! To salute the colours! My eyes yearn for them. I comfort myself with the thought that my prison dress is green, my prison cap is white. Would that my apron were purple. My library card is faintly purplish! But one lives on small things in Holloway. And how ones perceptions & appreciations are intensified. How one learns the meanings & the values of the ordinary blessings & beauties of life which one is so apt to take for granted. Colour, music, sun & stars & above all human friendship & social intercourse. Wear the colours always, if not for your own sake, then for the sake of those who are in prison. I am convinced that wearing the colours is one of the best ways of attracting strangers to this Movement. Curiosity & interest once stimulated, you know how quickly the rest follows. A large number of the deputation who went to prison with me, were quite recent converts, who a few short weeks ago would have scouted the possibility of going to prison. Ours is such a wonderful Movement. Nothing seems too much to hope, too great to believe & expect. I must say Goodbye to you. When you read this letter of mine, there will be only two more weeks to pass before the joy of reunion is ours. Meanwhile, as I sit here in my prison cell, I know that in the world outside, it is Spring time. Life is pushing its way through the clods. Life is rising like a tide through stem & branch, soon to overflow & bring a flood of beauty over the face of the world. Yes & there is a stirring of new life in the heart of the human race & especially in the heart of the world’s womanhood. I feel it in our Movement, I see the blossoming of new hope, new faith, new love, new courage, new energy. I know that in the cycle of the world’s life, a new Spring is coming, {3} has indeed come. This knowledge is my great joy. It is the joy which we all share & which none can take from us. We will give body & soul & all that we have to minister to this new life. We will accomplish the purpose to which we have been called. Yours in the strong bond of fellowship which unites us all in this Movement.

Emmeline Pethick Lawrence.

Dear Husband. Truly there is some great power of love working for us. Dear Marie’s visit was quite wonderful. For the first time I really felt a bit strained today. The sight of Marie broke the tension & I am quite right now. I almost felt as though the dear dear Daddy {4} sent her. He said his spirit would be with me. Can we doubt that all will be well always? Can Chris as well as Freda ride with me on the 17th. I should love to have them both. Marie tells me how Chris has felt it. Give my love to all my dear circle of relations & friends. My heart’s love to you dearest.

E. P. L.


The letter is written on a printed form. The details entered by hand include, besides what is printed above, the prisoner’s number (2141) and name, and a reference number. There are a few later annotations, which were evidently made in the process of preparing the text for printing.

{1} A quotation from Browning’s poem ‘By the Fire-Side’, varied slightly.

{2} Comma supplied.

{3} Votes for Women, launched in February 1907.

{4} Mark Guy Pearse.

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      This description was created by A. C. Green in 2020.




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