Arabella Scott

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Arabella Charlotte Scott
Photograph of Arabella Scott
Born(1886-05-07)7 May 1886
Died27 August 1980(1980-08-27) (aged 94)
Alma materUniversity of Edinburgh
Occupationschool teacher
Known forsuffragette
RelativesMuriel Scott (sister)

Arabella Scott (7 May 1886 – 27 August 1980) was a Scottish suffragette and campaigner.[1][2] She underwent hunger and thirst strikes when she was sent to jail and was released under the Cat and Mouse Act.[1]

Early life[edit]

Arabella Charlotte Scott was born 7 May 1886 in Dunoon, Scotland. Her mother was a teacher and her father served as a captain in the Indian army for more than 25 years.[1][2]

She graduated with an MA from the University of Edinburgh and went on to become a schoolteacher, living with her sister, Muriel Scott, in Edinburgh.[1] Scott and her sister were advocates for women's suffrage and were active speakers in Scotland for the cause.[1]

Campaigning for women's suffrage[edit]

In 1909, Scott and her sister Muriel were both arrested on the charge of obstruction in London after they tried to hand a petition to the British Prime Minister H. H. Asquith, on this charge the sisters served 21 days at HM Prison Holloway.[1]

Scott was arrested and released several times over the following years, under the Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill Health) Act 1913, known by activists as the Cat and Mouse Act. The Cat and Mouse Act was put into place so that suffragettes could not kill themselves in prison due to hunger strikes, instead when they became too weak they were released and then re-arrested at a later time to complete their sentences.[3] In April 2013, she and with Frances Graves who went by the alias "Frances Gordon" were arrested with breaking into Springhall House, allegedly for arson[4]. On the 19 May 1913 Arabella was arrested again, for trying to set alight to a building at Kelso Racecourse Agnes and Elizabeth Thomson, and Edith Hudson.[5] They were all imprisoned at Calton jail and went on hunger strike together.[1] Scott was released under the Cat and Mouse Act on 24 May, her licence ran out and she failed to return to Calton jail.[1]

Scott was caught on 12 June and rearrested, when she returned to Calton jail she went on hunger strike again. On the 16 June she was assessed as too weak by a medical officer and was released on licence but did not return to the jail.[1] Scott was found in London on the 24 August and returned to Calton jail where she went on hunger and thirst strike.[1] On 28 August the medical officer put her forward for immediate discharge due to her health, however she had to be removed from the jail by force as she did not want to be placed on leave under licence once more.[1] The licence expired on 10 September 1913, Scott was not found until the following year.[1]

Scott worked as an organiser for the Women's Social and Political Union in the Brighton branch under the name, 'Catherine Reid',[6] she was found in May 1914 and resisted arrest.[1] Scotland Yard and the Brighton Police both had to help the police that had come from Scotland to arrest Scott as she refused to walk and had to be lifted and dragged onto trains.[1] She started her hunger and thirst strike on 2 May when she was arrested, and by 8 May was ill and allowed to leave the Calton jail under licence.[1] On 17 May Scott departed for London so that she could help the WSPU campaign against the liberal candidate in the Ipswich by-election.[1] She was due to return to jail on 22 May.[6] She was found on 19 June during a raid at a suffragette house, where she was rearrested and forced to return to jail.[1]

Scott was given a Hunger Strike Medal 'for Valour' by WSPU.

Force-feeding at Perth prison[edit]

Scott was taken to Perth prison, instead of Calton jail, she was admitted on 20 June and released on 26 July. Despite an appeal to prison authorities by Janie Allan on her behalf, warning of dangerous protests during a royal visit, if Scott was force-fed,[4] she suffered this throughout her imprisonment three times a day. She was not allowed visitors or letters and during her imprisonment.[1] As Scott held out, the medical officer, Dr Hugh Ferguson Watson reported in daily detail on her state of mind and emotions and the long conversations the pair shared in the prison, where he sent warders out of hearing.[7]

"Watson was emotionally hooked into her."[7]

In her 'autobiography', written largely by her niece, Francis Wheelhouse, from taped interviews, Scott described a force-feeding tube being driven into her stomach as bits of her broken teeth washed around with blood in her mouth. When she vomited after it was removed, Watson would shout at her 'You did that on purpose'. Scott also recalled that one day Watson had said to her, "Look here, it's a pity, why don't you give it all away? The government would send you over to Canada and I would personally conduct you there."[7]

She refused his offer as tantamount to giving in.[7]

Scott was once more released under licence under the Cat and Mouse Act.[1] On 28 June 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, two days after Scott's release the First World War began, with the UK joining by declaring war on Germany on 4 August.[6] The WSPU announced a truce on militant acts, the Secretary of Scotland announced on 10 August the mitigation of all suffragette sentences passed in Scottish courts including Scott's.[6]

Scott's ordeal has since been dramatised by the playwright, Ajay Close, who researched the play based on Watson's reports held in the National Archives of Scotland and from the transcripts of taped interviews with Scott.[7]

Later life[edit]

Scott, under her married name Colville-Reeves emigrated to Australia, joining the Australian Suffragette Fellowship.

She died on 27 August 1980, and her memorial is in the Palmdale Lawn Cemetery on the Central Coast of New South Wales. [8]. Her obituary (Sydney Morning Herald) was called a 'Proud Story of a Woman's Murky Past'.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Leneman, Leah (1993). Martyrs in our midst:Dundee, Perth and the forcible feeding of suffragettes. University of Stirling Library: Abertay Historical Society. pp. 21–26.
  2. ^ a b "Two million reasons why women should always use their vote". Scotsman. 14 December 2006. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  3. ^ Enstam, Gwen (2017). "Petrol Scented Spring by Ajay Close Review". The Bottle Imp. Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Diane, Atkinson (2018). Rise up, women! : the remarkable lives of the suffragettes. London: Bloomsbury. pp. 472–3, 558. ISBN 9781408844045. OCLC 1016848621.
  5. ^ "Scotland's forgotten sisters". Retrieved 2018-05-15.
  6. ^ a b c d Leneman, Leah (1995). A Guid Cause: the women's suffrage movement in Scotland. Mercat Press. pp. 194–208.
  7. ^ a b c d e "What the doctor ordered .. suffragettes' ordeal relived". The Scotsman. 2 October 2010. Retrieved 2018-06-19.
  8. ^