Frances Parker

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Frances Parker
Fanny Parker, suffragette, 1914.jpg
Parker being escorted from Ayr Sheriff Court by a police officer in 1914
Frances Mary Parker

(1875-12-24)24 December 1875
Kurow, Otago, New Zealand
Died19 January 1924(1924-01-19) (aged 48)
Arcachon, France
NationalityNew Zealander
Alma materNewnham College, Cambridge

Frances Mary "Fanny" Parker OBE (24 December 1875 – 19 January 1924) was a New Zealand-born suffragette who became prominent in the militant wing of the Scottish women's suffrage movement and was repeatedly imprisoned for her actions.

Early life[edit]

Born in Little Roderick, Kurow, Otago, New Zealand[1], she was one of five children of Harry Rainy Parker and his wife, Frances Emily Jane Kitchener. Her family lived at the Waihao Downs Homestead from 1870 to 1895, when they moved to Little Roderick.[2] Little Roderick is a division of Station Peak on the north side of the Waitaki River, Waimate District (not in Kurow, as reported elsewhere). Parker came from a well off background and was a niece of Field-Marshal Lord Kitchener.[3] who paid for her education at Newnham College Cambridge. Her famous uncle would later declare himself "disgusted" by her involvement in the women's movement.[3]

In New Zealand, women were granted the franchise on 19 September 1893 and voted for the first time in the election held on 28 November 1893. Parker left New Zealand in 1896 to study at Newnham College, Cambridge. Her tuition there was paid for by her uncle.[4] She received a degree in 1899, and subsequently spent several years working as a teacher in France and New Zealand.[3]

Suffrage work[edit]

On her return to Britain, Parker began campaigning for women's suffrage, initially with the Scottish Universities Women's Suffrage Union, and later with Emmeline Pankhurst's Women's Social and Political Union, for which she became organiser in the West of Scotland in 1912.[4]

Parker took part in increasingly militant actions, for which she was imprisoned several times. She served six weeks for obstruction in 1908 following a demonstration. Later she was sentenced to four months in Holloway Prison in March 1912 after taking part in a WSPU-organised window-smashing raid. Like many suffragettes she went on hunger strike and was subjected to force-feeding.[3] Later that year she was imprisoned twice, once for breaking windows, and once for breaking into The Music Hall in Aberdeen with the intention of disrupting an appearance by David Lloyd George. On both occasions she was released after going on hunger-strike for several days.

By 1914 the suffrage movement was becoming increasingly violent, with many buildings around Britain being bombed and burned. In July of that year, Parker and a fellow campaigner, Ethel Moorhead attempted to set fire to Burns Cottage in Alloway.[3] A watchman was on duty, and while Moorhead escaped, Parker was arrested. While on remand she went on hunger and thirst strike. Knowing that there was little chance of recapturing her if she was released, the prison authorities subjected her to particularly brutal force-feeding; when she was unable to hold down food, they attempted to feed her through her rectum, resulting in serious bruising.[5] She was seriously ill when finally released to a nursing home, but was still able to escape. Before she could be recaptured the First World War broke out, resulting in an end to militant campaigning and an amnesty for suffragettes.

During the war, Parker served in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps and was awarded an OBE. After the war she lived in Arcachon, near Bordeaux, where she died in 1924.


In 2014, Victoria Bianchi wrote a play, CauseWay, based on Parker and Moorhead's attempt to blow up Burns Cottage 100 years previously. The play was performed at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway.[6]

In 2016, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa purchased Parker's suffragette medal, the Women's Social and Political Union Medal for Valour, from an auction house in Scotland and will display it at the museum in Wellington. It is thought to be the only suffragette medal with a New Zealand connection.[4]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ "Parker, Frances Mary [Fanny] [alias Janet Arthur] (1875–1924), militant suffragette". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
  2. ^ Pinney, Robert (1971). Early South Canterbury Runs. Wellington: A.H. & A. W. Reed. pp. 81–87. ISBN 0 589 00616 9.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Leading suffragette's antics shamed her war hero uncle Kitchener". Mail Online. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  4. ^ a b c "Suffragette medal on its way to Te Papa". Stuff. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  5. ^ "Force-feeding extracts from Purvis". Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  6. ^ "CauseWay: The Story of the Alloway Suffragettes. Guest post by Victoria Bianchi". burnsmuseum. Retrieved 26 February 2016.