Thursday, October 20, 2016
I had good seats. Given to me, they were, But I had to pay the 300 dollar train trip to Toronto.
The Jays' season is over. An up and down one, for sure.
I only became a fan last year, with the other playoff run, the Bautista bat-flip one.
Before that, the last time I'd been to a ball game was in Montreal way back. I think my kids were around 6 and 8.
My brother, a huge fan, who, as a boy, searched the short wave universe for Yankees signal and who taught me to score the game, was visiting us from Denmark. The blue plastic Big O roof was glued on. We had seats high up behind the plate. I hate to sit behind the plate.
The humidity was through the roof (not literally) and my brother drank about 17 beers and never once had to use the loo.
My husband and I spent a fortune on drinks and ice cream for the kids.
Two 'old' women, with grey concrete hair were smoking cigarettes in front of me. Choke. Choke.
I wrote about if for....hmmm. Compuserve?...The article was much funnier than this blog post.
Before that I hadn't been to a baseball game in years, either. Not since around 1980.
Lately, I've wanted to go to Fenway Park. I have a 1912 letter written by my husband's great Aunt Edie, where she says she is going to a game with her cousin, Henry, a Boston doctor. Fenway Park was opened that year, I believe.
Today, my husband tells me, is the anniversary of "Blue Monday."
I told him, I can't remember when it was.
35 years ago. He said.
"When I was a kid," I said. I told him how my brothers and I were in the stands, behind 3rd base for that win where the Expos took the fore-shortened pennant.. or division. Can't recall. (I checked, division.)
Lots and LOTS of fun.
"You weren't a kid," my husband said. In 1981 you were grown up.
"Yea, right." The star players these days are pretty well the same age as my kids.
Yes, I was more than grown up. The next year I would get a job writing copy at CFCF radio.
CFCF was the baseball station, so I must have heard all about Blue Monday, in retrospect.
In the past few years, while on the treadmill, I tried to watch baseball, but I found it too boring.
And the spitting! And those retro haircuts! And those beards!
Then the Jays 2015 season and I realized, if you don't know the players, the stories, it's no fun.
Now, I know the stories. Russell Martin is a Montrealer. Who wudda guessed? He's making,what? 82 million?
The game has changed a lot since the days of Dave Van Horne. Moneyball and all that. So, so technical.
Anyway, in 1982, I wrote an ad for Dick Irvin, the hockey broadcaster, and he said he'd get me hockey tickets as a thank you.
I said "I prefer baseball tickets." Not a nice thing to say.
Actually, I liked hockey too, back then, but I didn't like the stands in the Forum. I get vertigo.
Monday, October 10, 2016
I've written a great deal about Miss Barbara Wylie, suffragette, here on this blog. She figures in my ebook Furies Cross the Mersey, the story of the British Invasion of Suffragettes to Canada in 1912/13.
The first time I heard her name (well, read her name) was when I found the Nicholson family letters and the yellowed press clippings saved by Edith Nicholson, one of which was about Wylie's Montreal landing on September 28, 1912.
The story was written in a semi-comical tone. Apparently all the reporters almost missed her, expecting a real battle-ax to de-train, but getting a tall, slim pretty girl, instead, and one attended by a male escort!
They interviewed her on the fly and asked her about a summer incident in England, where a suffragette threw an axe at Prime Minister Asquith.
"If it had hit him, it might have knocked some sense into him," she replied.
The reporters knew of Miss Wylie. She was one of three suffragettes who accosted Canadian Prime Minister Borden in London in August, demanding the vote for Canadian women.
This had prompted Borden is September, 1912 to ban suffragettes from coming to Canada. I guess the ban didn't work.
Anyway, as I start work on my sequel to Furies Cross the Mersey, Service and Disservice, about the Conscription Crisis and the involvement of the women suffragists of Canada, I started to read about Wylie's Toronto visit.
Wylie arrived in Montreal on September 28th, and she was invited to speak at a parlour gathering at Mrs. Kathleen Weller's Westmount home.
Mrs. Weller was with the Montreal Women's Club and would become a leader in the Montreal Suffrage Association 1913-1919 She also mounted the Montreal Suffrage Exhibition in February 1913.
(She was a closet suffragette sympathizer, who visited England in 1913 to learn more about the movement.)
The newspaper report from this Montreal meeting says the women were not convinced by Wylie, although Wylie wrote to Votes for Women Magazine saying the ladies snapped up her copies of said magazine and she also got 3 women to take out subscriptions.
Wylie later gave a rousing talk at the YMCA in Montreal, in November, a talk that is in Furies Cross the Mersey, but in between, in October, she made a visit to Toronto.
The trip didn't work out, apparently.
Her August meeting with Borden had made the front page of the Toronto Star. At that meeting she 'bragged' to Borden that she had been to jail.
The Toronto star covered her October visit in a condescending, mocking tone, as if Wylie was a curiosity of some sort, an angry, well-bred little girl.
Wylie was pretty, well-dressed and a 'college-girl' so they had to report about her, out of respect. They didn't have to like what she said, though.
And what she said was pretty incendiary, if the quotes are correct.
(One article did mention that the British suffragists had reason to be upset and were being badly treated. A window-breaking suffragette was dragged into a Private Club and flogged, apparently.)
The Toronto Star claimed there were a few members of Pankhurst's WSPU in the Ontario city (Denison? Hamilton?) but no suffragist in Toronto wanted to host Miss Wylie.
But Wylie did end up giving a talk at the home of the Secretary of the Toronto Local Council.
In October, all told, Wylie spoke to Toronto reporters a few times and gave one public talk to a men's group.
Wylie was described as a "fiery young creature" and an "up-to-date and well-gowned avenging archangel."
She said: "I would as soon fill Parliament with a lot of Teddy Bears than with men."
Also: "So long as you set all in a row, with your mouths open, you will get nothing. You need the termagant spirit."
"I would carry a gun and not be afraid to use it and no jury in the land would convict me because it would be in self-defense."
"Any woman who sits down under the colossal wrongs of woman kind is damning her own soul."
In March, 1913 there was a famous suffrage march in Washington. Prominent Toronto suffragists participated. Speaking to the press about this march, Constance Hamilton, head of a Toronto Equal Suffrage League, quoted from a letter of support she had recently received from Miss Barbara Wylie.
Hamilton would one year later launch her own National Organization, the National Equal Franchise League, and steal half of the Canadian Suffrage Association's membership saying that Flora MacDonald Denison, the CSA President, was a brazen Pankhurst supporter.
Wylie went back to England in May 1913, but not before a trip out West, where she had better luck with populace and even acquired a few supporters.
Back home, she was soon arrested in a protest in front of His Majesty's Theatre.
Here's the pic:
I am writing Service and Disservice, about the Canadian suffragists and their iffy involvement in the 1917 Conscription Election. It is a follow up to Furies Cross the Mersey, about the British Invasion of Militant Suffragettes to Montreal, Canada in 1912/13.
The 'maternal' suffragists of Canada did not allow the feisty young unmarried equal-rights suffragettes into the national movement, but some of them managed to sneak in.
Yes, I guessed right.
Caroline Kenney, sister of WSPU militant suffragette Annie Kenney, did participate in a suffrage play in Montreal put on by the Montreal Suffrage Association, an organization that promised at launch to be 'sane' and 'reasonable' and to 'go about a quiet education of the people.'
Caroline had launched her own more militant local organization in December, 1913, the Equal Suffrage League. She was the one (probably) who threatened to hold a 'suffrage tramp' from Montreal to Ottawa in the Spring of 1913, that forced the Montreal Anglo Elite women to start up the MSA, a very exclusive club where, to become a member, required an endorsement from two executive members.
The MSA was an organization made up of elite women and men; stodgy men, mostly professors and clergymen, all of whom simply DETESTED Mrs. Pankhurst and her militant suffragette troops.
One clergyman said at the launch press conference, in March, 1913, that he hoped the suffragettes starved to death in jail.
And, yet, there were many women on the Board of the M.S.A. who greatly admired Mrs. Pankhurst and the militant suffragettes, mostly in secret.
Some of these women admired the militants A LOT, like author Frances Fenwick Williams, Press Secretary, and Mrs. Kathleen Weller, Literature Committee, the wife of a prominent 'transport and electricity' man, who appeased the fear-mongers and mounted a successful suffrage exhibit in Montreal in February 1913, by making it all about red valentines and sweet suffragette chocolates and sunny jonquils.
On the surface, anyway. In the basement you could hear debates and find the latest feminist literature for your personal library.
It was Frances Fenwick Williams who put on the suffrage play "How The Vote Was Won" using the St. Lambert Players. The Gazette claimed the acting was very good.
That was my clue.
Annie Kenney's older sister, Nell, a former British suffragette, lived in St. Lambert with her husband. Frank Randall Clarke of the Montreal Witness.
How The Vote was Won was just the kind of play the clergymen on the MSA board were afraid of!
But it was put on as a fundraiser for the Patriotic Fund right at the beginning of WWI, so, I guess, they hardly could complain.
Above: A character speaks for the anti-suffragists in How The Vote Was Won. Below: A woman speaks her side. (from Hathitrust.org where you can read the whole thing.)
I know, for a fact, because it is in the minutes of the MSA, that the production was planned before the declaration of War in Europe, in February, 1914 by a group called the Fidelis Players, who wanted the MSA to back it, but the Executive refused. That society was run by Miss Brittain, a spinster teacher member of the M.S.A. but not on the executive.
I suspect if war hadn't broken out, Montreal might have had a genuine militant suffrage movement. Maybe.
A picture of the Canadian Delegates at the Washington Suffrage Parade 1913. I wonder where it comes from...oh, the Toronto Sun. Carole Bacchi, in her 1976 McGill thesis Liberation Deferred, nails it when she says that the Canadian movement was so timid NO demonstrations took place in Canada over woman suffrage. (Well, she says there was one lame one out West in 1916.)
That's what my Furies Cross the Mersey pokes fun at. I have two school girls at McGill's Royal Victoria College dare to organize a march.
I've been going over Carole Bacchi's 1976 thesis Liberation Deferred about the Canadian Suffrage Movement.
Her McGill thesis was turned into a book that has become the definitive book on the subject and it's easy to see why.
The thesis is almost perfect. Bacchi explains in the opening remarks that little has been written about the subject - and that there's not that much information out there.
This makes the Minutes of the Montreal Council particularly important, she says.
(It was too late in 1978 to get 'first person' account. Even Edith Nicholson, my husband's great aunt, was deceased by then.)
So Carole Bacchi's study covers all the information available, then and now - and does it so well no one else has bothered to continue the discussion. And she didn't even have the Internet!
Well, I have written a book on the subject, Furies Cross the Mersey, but I am an author - and I can make things up. It's about the British Invasion of Militants to Montreal in 1912/13, a bit of a different angle.
( I know Bacchi discusses the impact of Emmeline Pankhurst's visit to Canada in the era.I'm not sure if she talks about Barbara Wylie's visit. I must check. I am certain she doesn't mention Caroline Kenney's visit to Montreal. I am the one who dug out that info, all by myself, thanks to the the Internet.)
I emailed Carole Bacchi a while back and she said she is surprised that no scholar has updated her decades old research - and she admitted there are some things in her thesis she would now change.
My only problem with her thesis is that she takes the Montreal Suffrage Association far too seriously. It was a bit of a bogus organization, I think. (But then again, the MSA was one of the few suffrage organizations that left behind their minutes.) Otherwise everything Bacchi says is bang on, in my opinion.
She even explains in elegant fashion why this Canadian Suffrage stuff is important to know. It's a study in how politics unfolds, sometimes.
Anyway, I looked up her thesis was to read what she had to say about the 1917 Conscription election,1917.
She writes that Arthur Meighan was so afraid of foreigners and French Canadians voting Borden out that he thought up the idea of limited franchise himself.
Pierre Berton in Marching as to War claims Nellie McClung gave him the idea.
Bacchi says that he could have easily just given all Canadian women the vote, except for 'enemy aliens.' No one would have minded. Indeed, I believe that is what happened in 1918. But there were too many tried and true Canadians unkeen for war. That included the Nicholsons for the most part.
(Apparently someone suggested that Meighan give the vote to British- Canadian women only. I wonder if that would have included the Nicholsons of Isle of Lewis Scot origin.)
She said the Montreal Suffrage Association was divided upon party lines when it came to this Limited Conscription and that Mrs. Scott and Mrs. Lansing Lewis quit the organization over the issue in 1918 and 19. The same Mrs. Scott at the Montreal Council of Women tried to impeach Dr. Ritchie England over the issue and lost. That is all in Tara Brookfield's 2008 article Divided by the Ballot Box.
Well, Carrie Derick, President of the MSA, was a cagey one. At the AGM of the National Council in 1917 she says she is for 'the conscription of men, women and wealth' making everyone laugh out loud. That's a typical non-statement statement:Very modern of her to talk like that.
Gee. killing young men is fun, ain't it?
It was the Montreal Council of Women that created a resolution for Conscription and sent it to other locals around the country. For instance, Calgary voted Yes and Edmonton No.
(This is confirmed in the Annual Reports of the National Council of women for 17 and 18 and in the Minutes of the Montreal Council of Women.) Stowe Gullen writes in the Citizenship Committee Report in 18 that Ontario and the Western Provinces were (somewhat) against Limited Conscription, but not Montreal.)
Yet, somehow, later, Carrie Derick used her ability to twist words to say the Montreal Council was non political and never voted pro or con Conscription. BS. A bit of a lie. Well, a total lie.
It's clearly marked in the Minutes: Resolution over Conscription and it is even underlined.
I want to start my next book, Service and Disservice at the Win the War Meetings in August 1917...but what went on there is confusing... Derick is not the only one who rewrote history on the fly.
I'm hoping that I can find one good era source.
What is cool, Bacchi's thesis has a photo of Canadian participants, Denison et al in the Washington 1913 parade. But the pic is pretty unclear.
Constance Hamilton discussed her participation at a breathy news conference where mentioned a letter from Miss Barbara Wylie, militant suffragette on a tour across Canada, who was so fed up at Canadian women at this time, she was about to leave for home.
And what is a suffrage parade without 'a bevy of beauties.'
The Suffragette Movement is a 'romantic' movement, in that we've romanticized these social activists, to a degree.
It will be interesting to see how Carrie Mulligan/Meryl Streep's new movie, Suffragette, will deal with history. The movie is slated for release in October.
We forget how much these suffragettes were feared and loathed in 1912/13 by many people, even by those people who wanted women to get the vote.
But I've just uncovered a TRULY romantic Hollywood-Style romance about one of Mrs. Pankhurst's troops.
And, yea, it's got a Montreal angle!
I've written an ebook, Furies Cross the Mersey, about the British Invasion of Militant Suffragettes to Montreal in 1912/13.It's available on Amazon.
Mrs. Pankhurst visited Canada on two occasions to speak. She made just one visit to Montreal, in late 1911. She was the guest of the Montreal Council of Women. Carrie Derick, Past-President, had requested that she be invited to the city, 'to hear the other side of the question.'
Barbara Wylie of the WSPU came to Canada in early September, 1912 and stayed until 1913. In her speeches, Wylie bragged about having been to jail.
The pretty suffragette traveled all the way to British Columbia, during a winter of record cold.
Then she returned to England and became the spokesperson for Mrs. Pankhurst for a while - and then she got arrested in a protest in front of His Majesty's Theater in London. You can read all about her Canadian escapades in Furies Cross the Mersey.
Caroline Kenney, sister of prominent militant Annie Kenney, came to Montreal, Canada in December, 1912 and stayed a few years.
Iconic Image of Annie Kenney and Christabel Pankhurst.
I write about Caroline in my Furies book, too, and will write more in the follow up, Service and Disservice about the years 1913-19 and the Conscription Crisis of 1917.
Caroline came to stay with her older sister Nell in St. Lambert. I have seen her immigration documentation. She intended to stay in the country and work as a teacher.
While in Montreal, she helped found, in late 1913, the Montreal Equal Suffrage League. It was to be a group made up of militants and non-militants.The ESL didn't get much press. Caroline, herself, gave a couple of talks upon her arrival, to a Jewish Group and to the Women's Temperance Union.
She got bad press for her first talk, about the "Evolution of Militancy." Militancy was a very dirty word in Montreal and Canadian suffrage circles in 1912/13, even though many, many women sympathized with Mrs. Pankhurst's WSPU.
Caroline's sister, Nell, had immigrated to Canada in 1909 and married Frank Randall Clarke, a journalist, late of the Daily Mail of London.
I figured out that Nell Kenney had acted on behalf of Mrs. Pankhurst's militants in 1908 in England. There are mentions of her meetings in Votes for Women Magazine.
And, just lately, I read an account of that romantic 'suffragette' story I told you about.
Lyndsey Jenkins, an Oxford scholar, soon to release a new biography of prominent British Suffragette Lady Constance Lytton (and now researching the Kenney Family) sent me a certain biographical document saying that Frank Randall Clarke met Nell at an election rally for Lord Asquith, one she disrupted on behalf of the suffragettes.
The police fell on Nell hard, apparently. (Naturally!) And who came to her rescue? A young reporter covering the Asquith speech, one Frank Randall Clarke.
From Ann Lynn Becker's McGill Thesis via McCord Museum.
Clarke fell in love with the suffering suffragette, followed her to her 'safe haven' in England and ...well... the document says he married her in England.. but, that's not right.
I have seen their marriage certificate. They came to Canada in 1909 and married here in Montreal.
It seems that they had to get out of England quickly.
Now, isn't that romantic? Reeealllly romantic? Hollywood-style romantic?
I'd say so.
I see nothing in the newspapers to indicate Nell worked for the suffrage cause while in Montreal, but by 1913 she had two infants.
Frank Randall Clarke's new place of work, the Montreal Witness Newspaper, was for woman suffrage, but covered the British Suffragettes in the most sensational way! See the pic at top.
Still, I can see from the membership list of the Montreal Suffrage Association that St. Lambert, a community of Anglos south of Montreal Island, was an enclave of suffragists. The MSA had lots of members from that place. (The MSA, upon launch in 1913, promised to be peaceful and reasonable and to go about a quiet education of the people.)
That seemed weird to me at first. Why St. Lambert, of all places?
Now, I know why. A dyed-in-the-wool militant suffragette moved there in 1912-13, at the height of the movement, at the height of all the controversy.
Anyway, Frank Randall Clarke became a prominent social activist in Montreal, lobbying for better labour conditions, and the author of the biographical document assumes that Nell helped him along.
His fonds are at the McCord Museum in Montreal. They include photos of the Royal Princes on their Montreal visits, wearing suits so sleek, so finely threaded, they shimmer, and also pictures of homeless men during the Depression sleeping in their rags on park benches.
Whatever, Frank Randall Clarke appeared to adore his wife all through their time together. They had more children.
Nell accompanied Frank on a cross-country assignment of behalf of CP Rail in the 1930's. A McGill Thesis was written on the project by Ann Lynne Becker. You can read it here.
Here is proof that Flora Macdonald Denison, Toronto journalist, continued to be active with the Canadian Suffrage Association, even after she was kicked out as the President in 1914.
The following article is from the 1916 Bon Echo Sunset, a literary magazine Denison edited.
Denison is discussing Mrs. Pankhurst. She says that Mrs. Pankhurst is an effective wartime speaker only because she has been a martyr in peacetime - so the mothers of Canada, who must give up their sons to the war, can relate to her.
Denison, supposedly, was ousted as President of the CSA because of her vocal support for the militant Mrs. Pankhurst.
This article, I'm assuming, is in the public domain. Flora Denison died in 1921.
...."What a difference whether one is for or against the government.
Before the war the world was ringing with the name of Mrs Pankhurst, because she had the courage to defy the British Government, break its laws, get imprisoned, hunger strike, thirst strike and sleep strike, and do all manner of outrageous and difficult things –get herself punished so that she was time and again at the very doors of death.All for what reason?
For Democracy’s sake – that she might have a say in the Government that made the laws that governed her.
Her daughter, Christabel, had passed her legal examinations, but could not practice her profession because of her sex.
Mrs. Pankhurst was acknowledged by all to be a woman of the rarest ability.
Refined and gentle, but with a volcanic force and fire that swayed vast audiences to do and dare and sacrifice for her cause.
Surely she had a real grievance – the British Government not only denied her the right to vote, but had even denied her the right to petition.
The boasted democracy of England was but a name when it came to their women.
They were being flung in and out of prison- ghastly victims – under the “Cat and Mouse” Act.
War is declared against Germany –WHY?- because of German autocracy, because German ideals are ‘might makes right’ and England says ‘right is might.’
England calls for all the Empire’s sons from all colonies to come fight for Democracy, to help keep the flag of freedom waving.
Help – and the Empire – rallied around the flag.
Then Mrs. Pankhurst, English first and Democrat second, called a truce. She was pardoned and she has been with the government ever since.
Twice before Mrs. Pankhurst had been in Canada; she loomed large both in Canada and the United States.
She gave an impetus to women’s suffrage that all must acknowledge and that now nothing can stop, and her very name was anathema in government circles.
Today, she is in favour with the government. She is fighting with them and not against them.
From 1916 Toronto Sunday World Newspaper.
It is an easy role that she is playing now.
But is the government, today, any less guilty today in its attitude toward its women?
Premiere Asquith says, “Two years ago we did not know we had such a wonderful woman.”
He knew right well (and no one knows better than he how wonderful is Mrs. Pankhurst) but did he give her the vote then, and has he given her the vote now, after acknowledging the country’s debt to them?
What has this all to do with Mr. Hearst, Premier of Ontario?
Well, the other day, the Canadian Suffrage Association waiting on Mr. Hearst.
The deputation was received ‘graciously’ – whatever that may mean.
Dr. Margaret Gordon was armed with 40 referenda,including Toronto, on the basis of awarding married women the vote on the same basis of widows and spinsters..
Dr. Stowe-Gullen showed conclusively that the organized women of Canada wanted the vote,there being only one dissenting organization in the whole Dominion.
Dr. Margaret Gordon, a staunch Conservative, wanted the Ontario government to do the big thing, since the Ontario women had done such noble and self-sacrificing work.
Flora Macdonald Denison (me)reminded the Premier of how eulogistic the men of Canada were about the women now the war has broken out.
Mr. Hearst said that Mrs. Pankhurst had done more to popularize the suffrage since the war than she did before, and that he would give more for unorganized opinion than organized.
As a matter of fact, if Mrs. Pankhurst had not been known before the war, anything she has done since would simply have made her one of thousands, not one of millions.
No,Mr Hearst, it is the martyr’s voice from Holloway Prison that has made her the power she is now for the Conservative government, since the war.
Why do we not hear of Mrs. Millicent Fawcett, a brilliant scholar and head of all the Constitutional Suffrage Associations in England, while Mrs. Pankhurst never had but a handful of followers?
Mr. Asquith always praised Mrs. Fawcett’s lady-like demeanor, but he never gave her the vote.
He refused Mrs. Pankhurst the right of petition, and Mrs. Pankhurst made him the laughing stock of the whole world, dodging down coal shoots and over back-fences trying to escape her.
When she needed help for her democratic ideals, he threw her into jail.
When he calls for help for his democratic ideals, she calls a truce and helps him.
And it is not that England is right, but that Germany is more wrong and of the two evils, Mrs. Pankhurst must choose the least, and that is all."
Read Furies Cross the Mersey, the story of the British Invasion of Militant Suffragettes to Canada in 1912/13. The follow up will be Service and Disservice, about the Canadian suffragists during the war and the Conscription Crisis.
I was transcribing this piece from VOTES FOR WOMEN, May 27, 1910.. for my story, Edith's Story, the follow up to Threshold Girl and I realized that this piece is relevent to the discussion happening today. (Well, things. Do they ever change?)
Militant Suffragettes were considered hooligans by many and treated as such by politicians like the Home Secretary (who was Winston Churchill at this time, I think) but this beautifully written article proves otherwise.
Of all the actions of the Suffragettes none have been so widely misunderstood as the prison mutiny and the hunger strike. Even among those who have nothing but admiration for the women who have faced ill-usage and imprisonment for protesting at Cabinet Minister’s meetings, or for taking part in deputations to the Prime Minister at the House of Commons, there are many who regard the hunger strike not merely as tactically and perhaps morally wrong, but as justifying to some extent the statement that the militant Suffragists are hysterical and unbalanced.
This criticism is partly due to the fact that the prison mutiny and hunger strike were the latest phase of militancy – and it has been a noteworthy feature at every stage of the present campaign that critics have fastened upon the latest militant methods for attack, while condoning and even sometimes expressing approval of earlier militant methods – and partly due to the fact that the outside public have never properly realized that there was an important principle underlying the apparently unaccountable behaviour of the Suffragettes in prison.
To incur WANTONLY additional punishment in prison, to undergo GRATUITOUSLY the terrible ordeal of starvation, to submit to the torture and forcible feeding rather than act rationally – these might be evidences of hysteria; but to determine, FOR A SUFFICIENTLY IMPROTANT PURPOSE, on a course of action without flinching, and to carry it through to the bitter end – these are evidences of a well-balanced mind and an heroic and untameable spirit.
To understand the action of the Suffragettes it is necessary to go back in history and trace in brief the treatment which has been adopted in past centuries and in other countries towards those who, like the present day Suffragettes, have incurred imprisonment, not on account of degrading crimes implying moral turpitude, but on account of actions taken with a political object.
In ancient days shoe who conspired to reform the government were dealt with barbarously; first they were tortured, then they were killed, and finally their bodies were mutilated. Later on, though the death penalty was still enacted, the savage accompaniments were omitted. As times advance, public opinion demanded greater and greater differentiation between the treatment of ordinary criminals punished for their selfish anti-social actions and that of men and women who had run counter to the law in consequence of their political views.
Even in the Bastille, we find political prisoners given considerable privileges; thus Parades was allowed to have what books he pleased, to carry on correspondence, and to be visited by friends. In the early part of the last century Cobbett was imprisoned in this country; not only did he have books and correspondence, but he was actually allowed to have the constant company of one of his children, who took up his abode in the prison to be with him. The condition of the political prisons of Neapolitan King Bomba in the forties raised a storm of indignation in the is country, because though they had certain privileges as to writing and reading, they were in other respects treated as common criminals and subjected to unhealthy and degrading conditions.
From the commencement, in dealing with the Suffrage prisoners, the Government departed from this honourable tradition.
Christobel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney, in October 1905, were sentenced to the third division in Strangways Gaol, Manchester, and were thus classed as the lowest criminals. Again in July, 1906, Annie Kenney and the others suffered imprisonment in the second division (a slightly better class, but still totally different from that allotted to political offenders.) In October 1906, ten more women were arrested and nine were sent to the second division and one to the third. This time, considerable feeling was aroused, because among the number was the daughter of Richard Cobden.
Liberal members appealed to the Home Secretary, Mr. Gladstone, and he made representations to the magistrate, and they were transferred to the first division and received treatment approximating to that of political prisoners. For some twelve months, this practice prevailed, then once again, the old methods was adopted. Suffrage prisoners were sent to the second and in some cased to the third division and there suffered the full treatment of prison discipline. Visitors and correspondence were only allowed at rare intervals, and the latter was always open to inspection by the authorities. Permission was refused Christabel Pankhurst to write a book in prison, which was not to have been published until she came out.
At first women suffrage prisoners accepted this without protest the punishment which was meted out to them; their compassion for the ordinary prisoners (many of whom for quite trivial offences were being treated in a way which would evidently unfit them for life when they came out) prompted them to protest rather against the whole system of prison treatment than against the absence of differentiation in their favour.
But as time went on they realized that by remaining silent on this matter they were allowing the traditions of proper treatment of political offenders to be abrogated, and in order that the future political prisoners might not suffer It was necessary to protest.
At first their protest was confined to words; the Home Secretary appealed to. He refused to make any change, and offered two excused for his position – firstly, that the matter was one for the magistrate and not for himself, secondly, that the offenses were ordinary breaches of the law and to be punished as such. To these he subsequently added a third excuse to the effect that the prisoners had for a time been put in the first division but had abused their privileges. There is an element of inconsistency in these replies, which are to some extend mutually destructive, but in addition each can be directly answered.
The Home Secretary undoubtedly possesses the power by the use of the Royal Prerogative of mercy to order the removal of a prison to a higher class. Even without using this he can make recommendations to the magistrate, as was actually done in 1906. …
With regard to the second assertion, that the Suffragettes are not political offenders, we have the decision of an English Court in the year 1891 in the extradition case of Rex vs. Cathioni, in which it was laid down that an offence is political if it is committed with a political object, even thought it be the offence of murder itself. Moreover, we have the test offered by the Rr. Honorable Gladstone, of public opinion , whether in the eyes of the public the offender is considered guilty of moral turpitude.
According to both these, all the women suffrage prisoners have been political offenders.
As for Mr. Gladstone’s third excuse, no charge was ever made at the time, nor has any charge whatever been formulated since.
When Mrs. Pankurst and Christable Pankhurst had been in prison together in the autumn of 1908, Mrs. Pankhurst had claimed the right to speak to her daughter while in exercise. This led to a severe reproof from the wardresses, which roused the anger of the other suffragettes present., who made a protest. Punishments were meted out all around, and Mrs. Pankhurst was kept in close confinement, but at length, the Government gave in and she was permitted to talk to her daughter at stated times.
It was not, however, till June 1909, that prison tactics were decided on by the members of the WSPU, as a definite ploy. The essential feature was that a claim was to be made for treatment as political offenders. If this was disregarded a protest was to be made inside the walls of the prison. This would take the shape of a passive resistance to prison regulations, to wearing prison dress, to confinement in separate cells, to routines of prison life; and this was to be followed by breaking the windows of the cells, at once a vigorous protest against prison discipline and a concrete and effective method o f remedying a serious abuse, the absence of proper ventilation.
All these methods were, in fact, carried out, but by the heroic courage of one woman a still more terrible method was been put into operation. Miss Wallace Dunlop adopted as the strongest protest she could make, a method used in the Russian Prisons by the prisoners –hunger strike. The hunger strike is passive resistance carried to its supreme limit. It offers no active resistance to wrong, but it frankly stakes life in the effort to win justice.
Mrs Wallace Dunlop said in effect to the Government; “I hold the rights of political prisoners so sacred that I am willing to die in their defence; choose, therefore, between doing justice and allowing me to die in prison.”
It was a terrible step to take, involving untold suffering as well as risk of life, but Mrs. Wallace Dunlop with a full sense of seriousness of what she was doing, had made up her mind and intended to go through with what she had undertaken. In sprite of threats and cajoling, in spite of great physical distress, she remained firm. And the end of four days, the Government gave in. They would not give her political treatment, it is true, but equally, they would not let her die in prison. They ordered her release.
Thirteen other woman suffrage prisoners who went to Holloway a few days later also adopted the hunger strike. They first they carried out the protest against prison discipline which they had premeditated. For this they had to face the severe rigours of prison punishment, close confinement for several days without exercise in narrow, airless and semi dark cells, and under under these conditions may of them faced hunger for three, four, five and some for over six days.
In the end they all won; their spirit proved triumphant over physical suffering. They were released by order of the Government lest that great releaser, Death should free them from their bondage before their sentences expired.