Mrs Pankhurst was born July 15 1858. 100 years ago today she began her 56th birthday a free woman but finished it in Holloway prison. Having been released from prison on July 11 under licence (as per the terms of the “Cat & Mouse” Act), which expired 4 days later, she attempted to avoid rearrest when she left her bolthole during the evening of July 15, but after a brief struggle with the police “cats” was captured and taken back to Holloway.
July 16 – a young Suffragette, Miss Payne (not to be confused with the Mrs Payne of the East London Federation of Suffragettes), attacks Millais’ unfinished portrait of Thomas Carlyle in the National Gallery, using a meat cleaver. Ironically Carlyle was one of Mrs Pankhurst’s heroes, his work French Revolution, having been an inspiration to her since childhood.
July 18 – severely weakened from her hunger and thirst strikes, and suffering with nausea and gastric problems, Mrs Pankhurst is released from prison yet again, under licence of course, due to return to prison July 22.
Her appalling treatment by the government since the introduction of the Cat & Mouse Act, had led to a Protest Fund being set up, which had received the considerable sum of £15,000 by this time. And the WSPU’s total income from donations for the year was an impressive £37,000, so although the movement never recovered from Mrs Pankhurst expelling from her organisation in 1912 its great chief fund raiser Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, and by 1914 its membership was down to just 2,000 member, the WSPU still retained the ability to fund itself.
Prior to July 22, Mrs Pankhurst manages to avoid the police and slip out of the country by getting on a ship to St Malo. She needs to regain her strength and wishes to meet up with her commander-in-chief in exile in France, daughter Christabel.
Before she left she wrote a letter of protest to the king.
July 23 – Lady Isabel Hampden Margesson and Mrs Corbett (the woman in a famous 1908 photograph seen hassling Prime Minister Asquith as he walked along Downing Street) take the letter to deliver it by hand to Buckingham Palace, but are turned away at the gates by the police.
July 24 – Lady Barclay and the Honourable Edith Fitzgerald attempt to do the same but are also turned away. They refuse to leave so are arrested for obstruction.
The government now attempt to crush the Suffragette newspaper by arresting its printers and issuing proceedings against everyone involved in its publication and distribution. The Suffragettes need their leader to return home and quickly.
See my next blog to see what happens next.